Ryanair may fly again from Rygge

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Ireland’s cut-rate carrier Ryanair confirmed on Monday that it’s interested in re-opening a base at the Rygge airport in Moss, south of Oslo. Its decision to finally accept labour unions and Norwegian taxes has apparently cleared the way for a comeback.

Ryanair and its CEO Michael O’Leary had nothing but disdain for Norwegian taxes and labour unions two years ago, but now he seems to have changed his mind. PHOTO: Ryanair

Norwegian website Nettavisen reported that Ryanair’s outspoken chief executive Michael O’Leary told analysts Monday afternoon that the airline had shut down bases in Marseilles and Rygge, for example, “because of the threat that we would be forced” to deal with labour unions. “Now that we have voluntarily agreed to talk with unions, we’re evaluating, and are in active discussions, with these airports to establish bases again,” O’Leary said.

That came as a surprise to Espen Ettre, a board member of the organization in charge of Rygge’s civilian aviation operations, Rygge Sivile Lufthavn. “This is completely new for us,” Ettre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) late Monday afternoon. “I was told about this a half-an-hour ago.”

Ettre told NRK there had been “some contact” with Ryanair, “but we haven’t had any conversations with them on any reopening of the base. Something is clearly happening, even though there hasn’t been any concrete discussion about flights.”

Asked whether Rygge would be interested in letting Ryanair reopen a base, Ettre said “yes, of course, but we hadn’t seen this coming. Now we need to find out more from our contacts within the Ryanair system what this might mean in practice.”

Ryanair stopped flying from Rygge in November 2016, with O’Leary blaming the Norwegian government at the time for imposing a new airline seat tax aimed at discouraging flying. The tax has had little effect on airline traffic out of Norway, however, and Ryanair not only continued to fly from the Torp airport at Sandefjord but also launched a few new routes from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL).

O’Leary earlier had made many disdainful remarks about Norwegian airports authority Avinor, the high landing fees it charges airlines and the “tyranny” of Norwegian labour unions after a flight attendant filed suit against poor treatment, and won. Now it seems Ryanair misses the traffic it had out of Rygge, and its firm opposition to recognizing labour unions has eased as well.

The airline seat tax remains in force and it doesn’t seem to dampen Ryanair’s interest in the Norwegian market any longer. O’Leary said at his presentation of Ryanair’s third-quarter results that it was keen to reopen bases in France and Scandinavia.

Ryanair announced recently that it was in the process of accepting negotiations with a labour organization representing its pilots. Its third-quarter results rose 12 percent despite major problems with flight cancellations and pilots taking off on holidays.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund