Ryanair Holdings Plc’s pessimism about the impact of last year’s Brexit vote on the U.K. economy appears to have eased, with the Irish company planning to add nine new routes from London’s Stansted airport this summer and deploy a dozen more aircraft across the country.
Europe’s biggest discount airline will serve Copenhagen three times daily and Naples daily, while also adding Beziers, Clermont, Grenoble, Nice, Nimes and Strasbourg in France and Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. Frequencies will be increased on 13 other routes, with the French cities of Bergerac, Bordeaux, Dinard, La Rochelle and Toulouse all getting daily services.
Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary was one of the most vocal opponents of a U.K. vote to quit the European Union in the run-up to the June 23 referendum, placing pro-‘Remain’ ads in newspapers and aboard his planes, and offering a ticket sale for U.K. citizens overseas to fly home to vote.
Following the victory for the ‘Leave’ campaign, the Dublin-based carrier said it would focus growth away from the U.K. and that no remaining planes from 50 originally due for delivery in the year would be based at British airports.
With the extra Stansted routes, one or two more aircraft may be based there, helping to swell Ryanair’s U.K. fleet to about 90 by the year’s end, with other jets to be potentially deployed in cities such as Glasgow, Scotland. Ryanair Chief Commercial Officer David O’Brien said in a briefing Thursday that the move doesn’t mean the airline has revised its views on Britain leaving the EU.
“Brexit hasn’t happened,” O’Brien said in London. “And if we’re to wait around until some clear thinking emerges, we wouldn’t do anything.”
Stansted itself, which is owned by Manchester Airports Group, has suffered no impact as yet from the Brexit decision, MAG divisional chief Andrew Cowan said at the briefing. The airport north of London handled 24.3 million passengers in 2016, the vast bulk of them flying with Ryanair, which estimates it will attract 20 million people there this year across 140 routes.
Still, Ryanair will expand U.K. capacity only 7 percent in 2017, down from 15 percent last year, O’Brien said, describing the approach as “prudent.” He added that connectivity accords had been agreed with Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA and Aer Lingus Group plc, held up only by final “technicalities.” Ryanair has been examining the viability of linking up with flights operated by other carriers, most likely long-haul operators, for more than a year, though has said such deals would only work where it has multiple daily frequencies.
While U.K.-based EasyJet Plc and IAG SA, owner of British Airways, cut earnings forecasts immediately after the Brexit vote, Ryanair resisted before following suit as a weaker pound began to eat into the value of sterling receipts when converted into euros.
Though the currency fluctuation may attract overseas visitors to London, most parts of Britain will see no surge in tourism, O’Brien said, adding that Ryanair’s new routes “are largely to assist English people to escape England.”
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