As Ryanair suspends CEE flight routes, Aeroexpress mulls new servicesReading Time: 2 minutes
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said his budget airline has no plans to withdraw from Hungary but will cease some services in the winter months in response to the government’s “idiotic” windfall tax on airlines, at a press conference in the Hungarian capital of Budapest on Tuesday.
The move will reduce Ryanair’s annual Hungarian passenger traffic from 4.5 million to 4 million, O’Leary said. The Irish airline had previously planned to raise its traffic to 5 million in 2023.
According to Hungarian conservative outlet Mandiner, three Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) services will be suspended: between Budapest and Riga in Latvia, Krakow in Poland, and Kaunas in Lithuania.
Other services to be pulled will be those connecting Budapest with Cologne, Turin, Bordeaux, Lappeenranta and Bournemouth, Mandiner added. Ryanair will reportedly also run fewer flights to Amman, Bristol, Prague, Pisa, Sofia and Warsaw.
The Hungarian authorities last month slapped a HUF 300mn fine on Ryanair for “unfair commercial practices, that misled consumers” after the airline announced that it would pass on windfall tax costs to its customers.
The combative Irish entrepreneur has compared the windfall tax to “highway robbery”, and vowed to challenge the decision, saying Ryanair expects to lose the legal case in Hungary, but to win the appeal at the EU’s supreme court, the European Court of Justice.
Aeroexpress trialling Romania-Hungary flights
Meanwhile a new airline brand is connecting CEE cities not served since Hungary’s flag carrier Malev ceased operations in February 2012, in cooperation with Debrecen airport, which is majority owned by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry.
Aeroexpress Regional is an offshoot of a company that has been operating in Finland for more than 30 years. The airline will use 30-passenger Embraer 120 ERs, acquired from the fleet of Air France Regional.
The start-up launched flights at the beginning of September between Budapest and Romania’s second largest city Cluj-Napoca, and from Hungary’s second city Debrecen to Cluj-Napoca and Targu Mures. They operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for EUR 30-90.
The Cluj Napoca-Budapest service is a one-day return trip, offering possibilities for business travellers. The Cluj Napoca-Budapest route appears popular: Romania’s Air Connect is also planning to launch a service from mid-October.
Aeroexpress Regional co-owner Daniel Somogyi-Toth told local media that Debrecen airport had won a flight development tender to support the project, and passenger feedback will be assessed during the two-month introductory period.
What happens after the end of October depends on the passengers and the Hungarian government, Somogyi-Toth said, adding that three domestic flights per day is a target.
Other possible routes, Somogyi-Toth added, could serve Krakow, Salzburg, Vienna and the soon-to-be-completed airport in Brasov.