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Ryanair to trim aircraft by 40 pct at London hub

DUBLIN - Ryanair Holdings PLC said Tuesday it will heavily reduce flights from its main London hub for the second winter in a row, citing high costs and seasonally lower demand.

The airline said it will base 24 aircraft at Stansted Airport from October through March, down from the current 40. The October-March period is low season for European airlines, and business has been particularly poor since economic recession began rolling across the continent over the past year.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary pinned the blame for Ryanair's temporary reductions principally on a 10 pound (€11.50, $14) British tax levied on each passenger as well as fees charged by the Stansted operator, BAA.

The Dublin-based airline previously had warned that it would cut services unless Britain and BAA slashed those costs over the slower winter-time period. Instead, the British government tax will rise to 11 pounds per head in November.

O'Leary called the British taxes on passengers "insane" and suggested that Ryanair would shift business to countries - including Spain, Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands - where authorities are trimming airport taxes and fees.

"Sadly UK traffic and tourism continues to collapse while Ryanair continues to grow traffic rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them," O'Leary said in a statement.

Ryanair made a similar move last year, when it cut the winter-time fleet at Stansted from 40 to 28. It levied the same complaints against British authorities then, too. The airline has taken a similar approach at its second-biggest base, Dublin Airport, trimming winter services and blaming the Irish government and airport operator.

Typically, Ryanair reallocates at least some Stansted-based aircraft each winter to other bases for routes to Mediterranean sun spots and ski resorts in the Alps.

 

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