Ryanair sparks row over rise in Spanish airport fees

Spanish airport operator Aena has defended plans to raise airport charges next year in the face of an attack by Ryanair.

The low cost airline giant said it had lodged a formal appeal against what it described as Aena’s attempts to circumvent a Madrid government ruling in 2021 to impose a five-year charge freeze across Spanish airports.

Ryanair warned: “Aena is threatening Spain’s vital air connectivity in what is the biggest threat to Spanish tourism since Covid.”

But the company hit back, describing its tariffs as being  “extraordinarily competitive” and much lower than those of comparable European airports.

The group, which runs more than 40 airports across mainland Spain and its islands, is proposing an increase of 4.09% in March 2024 to €10.35 from €9.95 or 40 cents due to inflation and “significant increases in costs beyond Aena’s control”.

Fees were frozen this year and fell by 3.17% in 2022 over the previous year.

Its stance contrasts with most European airports where there has been a general increase in charges as a result of Covid and high inflation.

A spokesperson said: “Aena airport fees are not a relevant factor in the price of airline tickets. These registered strong increases in 2022 and 2023, of 15.2% and 42% respectively, compared to the aforementioned evolution of Aena’s rates (-3.17% in 2022 and frozen in 2023) and the proposed increase of 40 cents for 2024.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Aena deployed a series of commercial incentives to airlines in order to stimulate the recovery of traffic, which from July 2020 to March 2023 have meant discounts on airport charges of €125 million.”

But Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson argued: “This summer alone, Ryanair has grown its capacity in Spain by 12%, and this year will operate over 40 million seats to/from Spain across 740 routes benefiting the Spanish economy, its residents, and tourists. 

“If Aena are allowed to proceed with this charge increase, this will mean airport charges will rise at every airport in Spain, including peripheral island regions like the Canaries and Balearics, where air connectivity is essential for local communities. 

“In a single move, Aena is seeking to undo all the good work to date to recover vital air connectivity in what is the biggest threat to Spanish tourism since Covid.”

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