Ryanair’s Chief Executive Michael O’Leary followed up on the threats he made earlier in the year and reduced the number of flights that his airline schedules from El Altet airport at Alicante. He said last week that a total of 31 routes were to be cancelled and nine of the eleven aircraft that the company based at Alicante would be withdrawn.
The decision was implemented at the end of last week. The cancellations follow a long and protracted dispute with AENA, the management company of El Altet, over the use of air bridges to load and unload passengers. AENA wanted to enforce their use at extra cost and Ryanair wanted to continue using their existing methods which are to have the passengers walk across the tarmac. The decision by AENA was tested in the courts and they eventually agreed to carry out tests to check whether it was possible and safe to use the existing Ryanair method. The results of the tests showed that it would be possible from a few of the aircraft positions but not during the peak season in the summer because of safety considerations. The decision was again upheld by the courts when challenged once more and Ryanair said they would have no option but to reduce the number of flights they operated from EL Altet.
AENA now say that there are six selected positions at the new terminal which can be used for loading and unloading passengers by foot during the low season of November to April provided they are free at the time of an aircraft landing. They also reiterated that the real reduction in Ryanair traffic through the airport is 30 per cent compared to last year and the airline’s normal reduction of flights in the winter season.
And that should have been an end to it but following their meeting with the Minister for infrastructure and the associations of hoteliers, AENA started to backtrack on their previous decision and came out with what was called a compromise by offering Ryanair the option of embarking and disembarking passengers on foot for half of their flights starting on Wednesday 2nd November and running until May next year when it would be reviewed. Ryanair were quick to respond with spokesman Daniel de Carvalho saying, “Ryanair will not backtrack on their flight cuts in Alicante unless all Ryanair flights are authorized to use the loading and unloading procedures on foot, as it has done every day in most other Spanish airports and more than 160 European airports, where Ryanair operates.” He went on to point out a fairly obvious flaw with AENA’s latest position by questioning how all of a sudden it can be safe to offer 50 percent of their flights this facility when before it was not.