Following the announcement that the Irish low-cost airline Ryanair will close its base at Brussels Airport in Zaventem this winter, CEO Michael O'Leary has stated that the company will only return if Belgium's flight tax disappears.
On Wednesday, Ryanair confirmed that it will close its two-aircraft Brussels Airport Zaventem base on 29 October for the winter season due to cost increases from the airport and the "absurd decision" of the Belgian Government to introduce new taxes, O'Leary said in a press release.
"The base could be reopened if the decision on the tax is reversed and if Zaventem reverses its increasing costs," he told VRT. Whether the closure of Ryanair's base is permanent is unsure, but it will last until at least March.
The two aircraft in Zaventem (and the approximately ten flights per day planned with them) will disappear for the next half year, but foreign aircraft will continue to fly to and from Brussels. Nothing will change at Brussels South Charleroi airport, where Ryanair has about 15 aircraft.
"In addition to rising costs at Zaventem, the Belgian Government has introduced ludicrous new taxes including a €2 tax per departing passenger on EU routes and a fake 'eco-tax' of €10 for every passenger taking a flight less than 500 km," said O'Leary.
While Ryanair continues to grow in "other European airports that understand that lower airport charges are necessary for post-Covid traffic recovery," it has "no choice but to close the Brussels Zaventem base this winter" in response to higher costs.
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In the meantime, Brussels Airport reacted to the announcement in a press statement, saying that Ryanair currently represents just 8% of the total passenger traffic at the airport in Zaventem: 30 flights (15 rotations) a day at Brussels Airport, of which ten flights (5 rotations) are with crew stationed in Belgium.
"Ryanair's decision only has a limited impact on the network of destinations at Brussels Airport," the airport said. "Although Ryanair's operations contribute to the offer at Brussels Airport, other airlines offer the same destinations, with the exception of Pisa and Amman. Brussels Airport expects other airlines to offer their services to these destinations."