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Cut backs on winter flights

By Sophie McCarrick [email protected]

Across the board flight cutbacks have drastically affected Ryanair’s services to and from Faro airport this winter, with the low-cost airline having grounded 80 of its aircraft.

Due to continuing weak economic conditions and the ever increasing cost of fuel, Ryanair say that it is cheaper for the company to ground the planes, more than a quarter of its fleet, between this month and April 2012 rather than have them in the air.

Chief financial officer Howard Millar said: “We are well booked for the coming months, fractionally ahead of where we were last year. So far we have not seen any impact from the recession.”

The Irish airline claims that the usual weak winter demand would force them to operate at a loss without the groundings.

Michael O’ Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: “Ryanair’s fleet of Boeing 737-800s is growing too fast, with 272 already in operation and approximately 40 more added after the first half of 2012. Ryanair has secured discounted rates for 90% of its fuel needs through the end of the year, but those costs were still too high to justify keeping the full fleet airborne throughout the winter.”

He added: “Instead of running around trying to open up new bases and routes in November and December 2011, we will sit them on the ground. With higher oil prices it makes no sense.”

As a result of the groundings and reduced seat availability, average ticket fares are set to rise by 13% this winter, meaning the company’s profit forecast has also been adjusted upwards.

easyJet, meanwhile, claim to have slightly increased the frequency of flights that they offer over the winter, adding that Faro is one of its top 15 most popular routes.

“We see Portugal, despite its economic troubles, as an opportunity. We are already number two there to TAP,” said easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall.

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]