Stansted: Ryanair calls for CAA to investigate pre-sale increase in airport charges

Ryanair aircraft at Stansted Airport

Ryanair aircraft at Stansted Airport - Credit: PA

BUDGET airline Ryanair has called on the UK’s aviation regulator to investigate a 6% increase in airline charges announced by the former owner of Stansted Airport shortly before its sale.

The Dublin-based carrier, the largest operator out of Stansted, wants the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to consider whether the increase was intended to drive up the value of the airport ahead of its £1.5billion acquisition by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) from Heathrow Airport Holdings, formerly known as BAA.

Ryanair, which says it had previously planned to grow its Stansted traffic by 5% from April 2013, now says it will cut its operations at the Essex airport by 9% over the coming year, representing a fall from 12.5million passengers to 11.4m.

It has also called on the CAA to explain why the former BAA group, owned by a consortium led by the Spanish group Ferrovial, should be allowed to raise its charges by more than twice the current rate of UK inflation, particularly when Stansted’s passenger traffic has fallen from 24m to 17.5m over the last six years.

Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely of Ryanair said: “It’s bad enough that Ferrovial/BAA has doubled prices over the past six years and presided over record traffic falls at Stansted, but it appears that the CAA now rewards this commercial failure by allowing Ferrovial/BAA to again raise fees in 2013 to compensate for its traffic declines in 2012.

“Given that Ferrovial/BAA has now agreed to sell the airport to MAG, it is impossible to understand why the BAA monopoly is again raising Stansted’s prices from April 2013 when it clearly won’t be running the airport from that date.

“Ryanair and other Stansted airlines now must ask: ‘Was this surprise price increase part of a ‘sweetener’ package to persuade MAG to pay £1.5bn for Stansted?’ Are passengers and airlines at Stansted again being hit in order to boost the sales proceeds for the Spanish giant, Ferrovial, from the sale of BAA Stansted?”

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A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport Holdings said that, following the completion of its sale of Stansted to MAG, it would not be commenting on Ryanair’s statement.

A spokesman for MAG, which has identified a return to passenger growth at Stansted as one of its immediate priorities, said today: “As part of our plans to grow passenger volume at Stansted over the short, medium and long term, we will continuously engage with all of the airlines that operate at Stansted, many of which are already valued customers of ours.”