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Ryanair confirms decision to close Brussels Airport base
Budget airline Ryanair has confirmed it will go ahead with plans to no longer have a base at Brussels Airport, with the potential loss of up to 59 jobs.
The company will continue operations from Charleroi, which describes itself as "Brussels South" airport, 46km from the city centre, and some Ryanair planes based in other countries will still fly into Zaventem.
Belgian pilots and cabin crew have held various strike actions over the past months over wages and working conditions.
In its statement regarding its departure from Zaventem, Ryanair blamed the airport itself, saying that Brussels Airport will increase its fees by 11% come April 2023, “unlike many other EU airports which are lowering prices to recover traffic lost during the Covid outbreak or freezing charges to stimulate passenger growth”.
Ryanair said this makes the airport “even less competitive than other Belgian or European airports”.
But Brussels Airport said the new tariffs mainly take into account the energy crisis and high inflation, “which has a significant effect on the cost of airport operations,” according to a statement.
“The airlines were consulted on this matter and these tariffs were set and supervised by an independent regulator.”
Some of the new taxes are related to aircraft noise and emissions.
"In addition to rising costs at Zaventem," Ryanair added, "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 500km."
No longer having planes based in Brussels will result in the loss of 59 staff, although Ryanair planes based in other countries will still take off and land at Zaventem on several routes next summer, including to and from Barcelona, Majorca, Berlin, Marrakech, Dublin, Pisa, Girona, Porto, Madrid, Rome, Malaga and Valencia.
A union director in the aviation sector, Didier Lebbe, told Belga that the closure announcement did not come as a surprise for the 44 cabin workers and 15 pilots concerned, and pointed to “a strange competition between Charleroi and Zaventem airports”.
“The fares at Charleroi are now incredibly low,” Lebbe said. “Ryanair is playing on these cheap fares at secondary airports to make a profit. Their business is in the secondary airports that offer better prices.”
For its part, Brussels Airport does not appear overly concerned about the loss of the budget carrier.
“Ryanair's decision has only a limited impact on Brussels Airport's network of destinations, although its operations contribute to the airport's offer,” the airport’s management said in a statement.
Spokeswoman Nathalie Pierard pointed out that their Brussels base had already been closed for some time before the decision was confirmed to be final.
“We have already noticed this winter that this did not have a huge impact because many passengers were going to other airlines that offered the same destinations,” Pierard said.
“We may lose some passengers, but we see it as an opportunity for other airlines to increase their capacity or frequencies.”
Unions say they are hopeful that Ryanair will follow Belgian law in terms of the collective redundancy procedure, which would mean they should offer all possible employment alternatives to the staff, including switching to the Charleroi base.
A first meeting is scheduled for next week.