Faro gets Ryanair base

The Algarve was given a massive boost this week with news that Irish low-cost giant Ryanair is to invest over 400 million U.S. dollars in Faro Airport. The announcement has been met with all-round approval, with the Government terming it as “the news of the year for the Algarve”. Charismatic Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary revealed details of the venture during a whistle-stop visit to the Algarve on Wednesday during which he announced Faro Airport as the airline’s second Portuguese base, reaffirmation, he said, of Ryanair’s belief in Portugal following the creation of its first national base in Oporto back in September.

Set to be in force next year, Ryanair’s Faro base will more than double the number of routes that it currently operates from the airport. Fourteen new destinations will be introduced from March 2010, connecting the Algarve to European cities such as Oslo, Paris, Madrid, Stockholm and Milan. It currently flies to 13 destinations in European countries including the UK, Ireland and Germany.

Its recently-introduced domestic route to Oporto has been hailed a success after showing constant occupancy figures of around 80 percent.

Despite indications that the investment would total €140 million due to three aircraft being stationed at Faro, a high-ranking source at Ryanair later told The Portugal News that following a last minute development, the airline was to double its investment at the airport and increase the number of planes stationed there to six.

As a result, the new base represents an investment of nearly €280 million (US$420 million) and will create more than 150 direct jobs (pilots, cabin crew and engineers) as well as sustaining at least 1,300 local salaries that will provide services relating to the 200 weekly flights.

The move is described by national dignitaries as a “huge vote of confidence for the region” following a year of dwindling tourist figures.

The airline will be the only company to have aircraft stationed at Faro besides national airline TAP, which has just one aircraft that stops over following a nightly domestic flight from Lisbon.

Ryanair predicts that with the creation of its Algarve hub it will carry an estimated 1.3 million passengers to and from the region every year. In total it will operate 27 low-cost routes from the Algarve.

The announcement is the culmination of five years of negotiations between the airline and Portuguese airport management company ANA. It emerged that only last week were there favourable conditions offered for an agreement to be reached.

One of the main favourable factors is that Faro will be lowering its airport taxes for next year.

In a press conference held on Wednesday morning at Faro Airport, at which the ANA President Guilhermino Rodrigues, State Secretary for Tourism Bernardo Trindade and deputy State Secretary for Public Works and Communications were also present, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary told reporters: “It gives me great pleasure to be here today and to announce Ryanair’s new base in Faro”.

“It is a great day for Ryanair and a great day for Faro Airport”.

He spoke of the airline’s goals by saying “The expansion will make Ryanair Faro’s number one airline. We expect to overtake all other airlines and be the largest in Faro next year”.

Addressing his own particular interest in the region, Michael O’Leary quipped, “The Algarve is very close to my heart because Mrs. O’Leary likes to come here on holiday”.

On a more serious note he added: “It is important that, at a time when airlines like TAP are falling, Ryanair increases its investment in Faro”.

Negotiations to establish a Ryanair base at Faro have, according to Mr. O’Leary, being ongoing for five years, but only last week were suitable conditions for an agreement reached.

One of the main obstacles in reaching a consensus over the years transpires to have been the expensive airport and handling fees charged at Faro.

Addressing the issue, Michael O’Leary explained “Faro is one of the most expensive airports that we will fly to, but we can’t have all of our growth at the cheapest airports.

“We will balance our growth next year by having some lower-cost airports in Southern Italy, Spain, Germany and Scandinavia, but also to more expensive airports like Faro, Malaga, and Madrid Barajas, as that is where the passenger demand is”.

The Ryanair boss admitted that in time he would like to establish a base at Lisbon Airport, “but that is not an immediate priority”.

With the delivery of 48 new Boeings next year, Ryanair has been searching for new bases to accommodate its growing fleet.

State Secretary for Tourism Bernardo Trindade congratulated Ryanair and Faro Airport on their new partnership, saying: “Ryanair would not make such an investment if they did not believe there were opportunities in our country”.

“It has been proven that the dynamics for air travel exist here, but given the present times, an investment at this level really is a fitting way to end the year”.

The same enthusiasm was shared by deputy State Secretary for Public Works and Communications Paulo Campos, who stressed “This is the news of the year for the Algarve”, and proceeded to congratulate “those who made it possible”.

“It is excellent news; first Oporto and now the Algarve and particularly at a time when the world’s economy is in a counter-cycle”.

But whether or not Ryanair’s 27 routes from Faro will stay for the long-run is another matter.

“All routes are experimental”, said Mr. O’Leary, who nevertheless predicted that “as most of Ryanair’s routes are successful”, Faro would see “more aircraft and more new routes”.



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