Ryanair, the low-fare Irish airline that’s threatening to stop flying from the Rygge Airport in Moss, appears poised to start flying new routes out of Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) instead. Ryanair reportedly has turned down slots offered from this spring at OSL, but has an option to start them up from September 1.
Ryanair itself still won’t comment on its route plans, but newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that it’s been cleared to start flying from OSL either this spring or this autumn. It was offered four slots last month, for routes back and forth to London Stansted and Vilnius, Lithuania starting from the end of March.
Ryanair had until January 31 to respond to the OSL slot offer. Airport Coordination Norway AS, which is responsible for doling out traffic rights at Norwegian airports, told Aftenposten that Ryanair said it won’t use its new OSL traffic rights this spring, but it was able to postpone accepting them, along with an OSL launch, until September.
That’s right around the time it’s threatening to pull out of Rygge, if the Norwegian government goes through with plans to impose a new airline seat tax of NOK 80 (UD 9) per flight from April 1. Ryanair has objected mightily to the seat tax, aimed at discouraging flying as a measure to help reverse climate change. Its threat to cease flights and close its base at Rygge has in turn prompted threats from Rygge officials that they’ll be forced to close the airport entirely if they lose Ryanair’s flights.
Ryanair, known for stirring up the airline market in Europe, was mostly keeping mum but seems to be keeping its options open. Spokesman Hans Jørgen Elnæs wrote in an email to Aftenposten that it’s “always interested in new routes,” but wouldn’t comment or involve itself in “rumours and speculation.” If the airline starts flying from OSL instead of Rygge, it would need to accept the seat tax after all.
The airline’s flamboyant boss Michael O’Leary told reporters in Oslo two years ago that he thought landing fees at OSL and other Norwegian airports run by state-controlled Avinor were “outrageously” high. That’s why Ryanair traditionally flew from much smaller, outlying airports than those run by state-controlled airports agency Avinor.
Lately it’s started using the major airports in, for example, Copenhagen, Athens and Madrid. It’s also been cleaning up its image as a no-frills carrier that only offered “flying bus” service, trying instead to appeal to higher-paying business travelers and offering everything from seat assignments to other passenger services. Ryanair’s interest in OSL Gardermoen indicates it may even be willing to accept fees associated with the slots it was offered at OSL Gardermoen last month, unless it cut a very good deal.