Ryanair’s airport ‘will shut down’

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The board of directors in charge of the Rygge airport in Moss, south of Oslo, announced Tuesday it had decided to shut down the airport to commercial civilian traffic from November 1. That’s when the only major airline serving it, Ryanair, has said it will severely cut or halt flights entirely, to avoid paying a new Norwegian airline seat tax of NOK 88 (USD 10.60).

The Rygge airport at Moss is served almost entirely by Ryanair, which has come under severe criticism by labour organizations and politicians this week. Now state authorities are vowing a full review of Ryanair's operations in Norway. PHOTO: Moss Lufthavn Rygge

The sun may be setting on the Rygge airport at Moss, because it became dependent on cut-rate Irish carrier Ryanair as the only major commercial airline serving it. With Ryanair claiming it will stop flying from Rygge because of a new airline seat tax in Norway, the airport’s board decided on Tuesday to shut down civilian airline service from November 1. PHOTO: Moss Lufthavn Rygge

The controversial airline seat tax was initially proposed by Norway’s Liberal Party last fall and reluctantly accepted by Norway’s conservative minority coalition government when it needed the Liberals’ support to win approval in Parliament for its state budget. The Liberals portrayed the tax as an environmental and climate-friendly measure, aimed at reducing airline traffic, although that’s been highly debated. Most airlines plan on simply passing the tax on to customers, who critics argue aren’t likely to cancel travel plans because of it.

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While most all the airlines serving Norway objected to the tax, Ryanair was the only one to threaten to stop flying from its Norwegian base at Rygge because of it. Ryanair also serves the Torp Airport in Sandefjord and has been negotiating to also start flying from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. It will thus need to charge the new seat tax anyway, if it intends to stay in the Norwegian market.

Ryanair won't be taking off from Norway's Rygge Airport in Moss, south of Oslo, after November 1, if the government goes through with a new airline seat tax. PHOTO: Ryanair

Ryanair objected mightily to Norway’s new airline seat tax, saying it would amount to 20 percent of the average price of its low-fare tickets in Europe, which is EUR 45. “Our passengers won’t pay it and we won’t demand that they do,” Ryanair’s commercial director told NRK in December. PHOTO: Ryanair

It remains unclear whether the board of Moss Lufthavn Rygge is now merely calling Ryanair’s bluff. The board decided, at any rate, that it will close the airport to civilian commercial traffic if Ryanair follows through on its threat to dramatically cut flights or withdraw. Pål F Tandberg, chief executive for the civilian operations at Rygge, said the airport stands to lose nearly all its revenue base if Ryanair pulls out, and it would not be possible to keep operations going. Between 500 and 1,000 workers at Rygge will lose their jobs.

Tandberg blamed the new tax, the imposition of which recently was confirmed after EU officials ruled it did not violate any rules that also apply to Norwegian aviation. Uncertainty over the legality of the tax had prompted Finance Minister Siv Jensen to postpone imposing it until June 1, when it now will start being charged after the EU authorities gave it a green light.

Moss Mayor Tage Pettersen called the airport board’s decision “most unfortunate, but they had warned this could happen and they can go through with it. Now we have the terrible message that Rygge’s doors will shut on November 1. It will have dramatic consequences for a region that already has high unemployment.”

Prime Minister Erna Solberg made some tough comments about Ryanair Tuesday night, claiming her government would not bow to the airline's pressure. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Prime Minister Erna Solberg made some tough comments about Ryanair Tuesday night, claiming her government would not bow to the airline’s pressure to drop a new airline seat tax. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Prime Minister Erna Solberg claimed, however, that “no Norwegian airports are shut down because of a tax on flights. In this concrete example, it’s because Ryanair doesn’t want to use the airport at Rygge, allegedly because of the new tax, which is not stopping Ryanair from using other airports in Norway.”

Solberg, writing on social media Tuesday evening, claimed it was “unfortunate” that Rygge “appears to be so dependent on just one single player that repeatedly has put pressure on authorities, policies and aviation management all over Europe in order to avoid paying taxes and fees. This government won’t let itself be pressured by Ryanair over a tax that the Norwegian Parliament has approved and which in principle is part of a green shift.”

Ryanair initially refused to comment further on the announced shutdown of the airport that has served as Ryanair’s base in Norway. It later issued the following statement: “We note the announcement by Oslo Rygge Airport, following confirmation of the Norwegian Government’s ill-advised and damaging ‘environmental’ tax. We are currently reviewing our Norwegian operations in the context of Oslo Rygge’s announcement and the Government’s decision and will outline our position in the coming days.”

Ryanair has not commented on plans to start flying from OSL Gardermoen instead, where it has secured slots from September 1. “They (Ryanair) have ordered four arrivals and departures a day,” Guri Høeg Ulverud, communications chief for Norwegian airports authority Avinor, confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday evening. “We don’t know whether they’ll use them. The airline has to answer that itself.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • frenk

    Whatever way you look at it…its just more tax….Norwegians don’t need more taxes……!

  • Dave Smith

    another pathetic tax , with no material benfits to the enviroment , just to the government koffers . Bragging rights gained for the ministers though, when they attend their next shmooze .

  • Ved

    Oh please Ryanair and Norway govt – a girl I love very much lives in Moss and this is the most convenient airport for me to go and see her. Please do not close this airport. Thanks!

  • Jonny 5

    Immensely stupid. Norwegian unemployment rising due to weak energy prices, fish farming more or less at capacity (few suitable sites not yet used) and tourism is one of the few viable industries that can create jobs. It’s bad enough that they built the main airport 45 km from Oslo, the flytoget actually goes through empty fields to get there and charges people 180 kr each way, but now this as well?!

    Why don’t norwegian’s ever get angry about these kind of issues?

  • Thomas Halvorsen

    If I were Mrs. Solberg, I’d make a quick call to the norwegian aviation authorities and have them “lose” ryanairs application for flight slots for the next ten years or so.

  • Past history has shown that Ryanait usually makes good on its threats and does not bluff. Less taxes are needed, not more.

  • James Peter Wright

    Whoever decided to put OSL where it is, not too bright. They must be related to the folks to put Denver International where it is. About as far out of town as OSL, but with no decent public transportation to whisk you to Denver. And…do the Norwegians really need another tax? Our son and daughter in law are both MDs in Oslo. Thanks to the taxes there, they barely scrape by. They like to use Ryanair out of Rygge.

  • Christina Redfern

    I feel very saddened by this news as I would always choose Rygge over Torp to fly into, being a frequent visitor to Oslo. I still hope for an positive outcome. Feel extremely sorry for all the staff there who would lose their jobs.

  • rcoenen

    Well done ‘green’ politicians. So now 500 to a 1000 people lost their job, a complete airport closed down, and no single flight less to Oslo. In fact all flights now concentrate on the 1 and only other airport Oslo has, concentrating traffic and pollution in 1 place. Excellent work guys, seriously. Well done. Not. You achieved exactly the opposite of what you were trying to get and in the process all we, customers, got is more expensive Ryan Air tickets. Lose-lose situation. Total failure. Happy now?