Poland’s plan to build a $9.4 billion central airport 45 kilometers (27 miles) outside of the capital will be a waste of money that would be better spent on improving existing facilities, according to Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier Ryanair Holdings Plc.
Warsaw already has two operating airports, whose capacities aren’t fully used and could be expanded instead of building a “big new shiny cathedral in the middle of nowhere,” Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary told a news conference Wednesday. The cost of the project, including new road and train infrastructure, will amount to 75 billion zloty ($20 billion), or more than a fifth of the revenue target in this year’s national budget.
“It’s a stupid plan,” the CEO of the most popular airline in Poland said in Warsaw. “It’s a kind of plan that only politicians and civil servants could come up with.”
The government in the European Union’s largest eastern economy wants to erect a new hub in the central Polish town of Baranow, by 2027. Authorities argue that the airport is necessary as the number of airline passengers in the country is set to double by 2035.
The new airport will “facilitate trade” for Polish entities with partners from North America as well as Asia, according to Mikolaj Wild, the government’s point-person for the project. With it, Poland will become a “main communication hub” in eastern Europe, he told public television TVP Info, which didn’t ask about O’Leary’s comments.
The planned central airport would be able to handle 45 million people annually in the first stage and up to 100 million after a later expansion. That compares to 20 million seen at the existing Chopin airport and 3 million at Modlin, a strip on the other side of Warsaw which currently services only Ryanair.
The additional railway development will allow Poles from the country’s biggest cities to reach the hub in 2 and 1/2 hours or shorter, while as many as 180 million people from the region will be within reach.
Ryanair plans to increase the number of passengers at 13 Polish airports by 4 percent to 12.5 million next year and also wants to increase the traffic at the Warsaw Modlin airport to 6 million by expanding it. O’Leary says the Irish carrier could help finance the expansion but is at odds with the state-owned operator of the Chopin airport, PP Porty Lotnicze, a shareholder in Modlin, for blocking the expansion.
“If the Polish government has common sense it would be encouraging not just Modlin to grow but it would be encouraging Chopin to grow as well,” he said, adding that Poland shouldn’t repeat mistakes of other EU capitals like Berlin, where the Brandenburg Airport project is more than six years overdue.