Ryanair’s appeal against being required to use aerobridges at Alicante El Altet Airport has been turned down by a mercantile court in Elche, Spain (Typically Spanish, 11-May-2011). New rules implemented by AENA require airlines to use aerobridges for passenger access to and from aircraft at the new terminal at Alicante. The LCC states using the facilities will cost it EUR2 per passenger and has threatened to reduce capacity by 80% at its Alicante base unless AENA reverses the decision. The Court has, however, asked AENA to reconsider whether the aerobridges are necessary and to consider allowing Ryanair passengers to embark and disembark on foot.
Ryanair appeal against Alicante’s aerobridges turned down
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AENA: Spain's airport operator must cut charges, but airline yields are already falling
After much delay, in late Jan-2017 the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the airport regulation document setting AENA's airport charges for the next five years. The headline numbers include a 2.2% annual decline in charges from 2017 to 2021, equivalent to an overall cut of 11% through the period.
The legal framework prevents tariff increases before 2025, but the outcome was in contrast with the Spanish airport group's own proposal to freeze charges. Strong traffic growth of 11% to an all time high level of 230 million passengers in 2016 may have influenced the regulator's decision.
In response, AENA has decided to remove an incentive mechanism which rewards airlines for traffic growth with airport charge discounts. The removal of discounts is estimated to offset the 11% reduction by one third.
In fact, this discount scheme has been quite effective in stimulating traffic growth in recent years. However, traffic growth in Spain was also boosted in 2016 by high airline capacity growth switched from other (risk) markets. Airline yield declines are probably noticeably heavier than AENA's regulated price reduction.
Ryanair and Stansted. Brexit may have increased the LCC's bargaining power over its biggest airport
Ryanair's plans for nine new routes and increased frequency on 13 routes at London Stansted Airport in summer 2017 mark a further chapter in the relationship between the two. Stansted is Ryanair's biggest airport and Ryanair is Stansted's biggest airline customer. However, Ryanair dominates Stansted, while Stansted's importance to Ryanair is diminishing.
When Ryanair took exception to what it considered to be excessive airport charge increases it severely cut its capacity at Stansted, severely denting the airport's traffic base between 2007 and 2012. The subsequent growth in passenger numbers following Stansted's acquisition by Manchester Airports Group in 2013 is the direct result of a deal with Ryanair over reduced airport charges. In 2016, Stansted's traffic recovery was complete and it handled more passengers than at its 2007 peak.
Ryanair's summer 2017 expansion plans at Stansted point to further growth in the airport's passenger numbers. However, Ryanair has reduced its growth in the UK as a result of Brexit uncertainty, and this is likely to mean slower growth for Stansted. Ryanair is even modestly cutting its capacity at the airport this winter. Ryanair has consistently been a critic of Brexit, but it may have further increased its bargaining power over its biggest airport.