Ryanair pledges growth in Yorkshire

BUDGET airline Ryanair will continue to grow at Leeds Bradford airport this year, in spite of announcing an overall 16 per cent cut in winter capacity.

The Irish carrier said Leeds Bradford avoided the cull by cutting its charges in return for guaranteed passenger numbers.

Along with Edinburgh airport, Leeds Bradford is the only airport to avoid the cut in capacity, which will see Ryanair shed space for two million passengers over the winter.

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The airline blamed taxes and high airport charges for its decision, adding it is likely to cost about 2,500 jobs, directly or indirectly. Ryanair head of communications Stephen McNamara said: "Leeds is unique in that it has a very low-cost structure for our routes. We did a deal with Leeds whereby we were able to receive a reduction in charges based on delivering guaranteed passenger numbers.

"What we have agreed is a long-term contract which will see the airport grow passenger numbers in a way that probably would not be possible with any other airline."

The Irish carrier opened a base at Leeds Bradford in March with 17 routes and 63 weekly return flights. Mr McNamara said it is finalising details to add two new routes. Ryanair's winter capacity at Stansted in Essex will be cut by 17 per cent from November, with the loss of 135 flights a week and up to 1.5 million passengers.

It will cut the number of aircraft based at Stansted from 24 to 22 this winter, with the planes switched to other European bases. It estimated that could save it 10m, and follows a 40 per cent capacity cut at Stansted last year.

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Chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "Sadly UK traffic and tourism continues to collapse while Ryanair continues to grow rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them."

Taxes and charges have been cut or cancelled in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.