Irish ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Ryanair is ramping up its UK domestic operations for the next summer season, with nine new routes opening, up from just one last year.
The airline, which is the country’s second largest airline by seat capacity, has been slowly rolling out such connections over the past few months as its executives visit their UK bases to announce their summer schedules.
Data collected with Cirium’s Diio Mi app shows that as of this week, Ryanair plans to operate ten domestic UK routes in the third quarter of this year – all shown below. The only one operating last summer was the one connecting Derry, Northern Ireland, to Manchester.
According to Cirium, the number of flights, in the third quarter, will be 1,840. Although this number is still subject to change, it would be a 1,635.8% increase over the 106 operations in the corresponding quarter last year.
Such an increase, the airline says, is due to the reduction of the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) – a tax levied on every passenger leaving the country.
According to the new APD rules, starting April 1, a new (local) fee band will be created, which will reduce the rate by half. In effect, this means that passengers within the UK will pay £6.50, instead of the previous £13.
In a press release this week, Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary said that “while the halving of APD on domestic flights from [April 2023] Enabled Ryanair to add additional domestic routes to our UK summer 2023 schedule […] If we are to continue to grow and drive the UK’s traffic/tourism recovery, PM Sonk should immediately scrap APD for all travel and provide incentives to airlines like Ryanair to stimulate growth and recovery for the UK, including London.
The reduction (or, better, “elimination”) of APD has long been a focus of Ryanair’s UK advertising campaigns.
However, Ryanair was still serving UK city pairs before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. UK ULCC domestic capacity in the third quarter, according to Cirium, peaked in 2016, with 2,675 flights (so 2023 should see a 31.2% drop in frequency, if no flights are added or cut).
Of the 2016 routes (below), only one will remain – the one connecting London/Stansted to Edinburgh, albeit with a 44.9% reduction in flights. The others will not return in 2023, according to the latest available schedule.
While one domestic route was operated by Ryanair in 2022 (it returned to the schedule last summer), the airline dropped most of its domestic routes in the UK at the end of 2020. So, the reason provided the lack of flexibility after the Brexit rules.
As an Irish airline, Ryanair has the rights to operate flights between the UK and the EU using its EU-registered aircraft (9H-, EI- or SP-), even if such aircraft are based at UK airports. However, for domestic flights within the UK and from the UK to non-EU countries, these rules do not apply.
Ryanair UK, the group’s British AOC, had only one aircraft on the register at the time, and the airline argued that it was not worthwhile to register more for a group of low-frequency rotations at smaller bases. After no compromise was found between the country’s regulator and the group, the airline decided to keep only one 737-800 in the UK (G-) registry, based at Stansted, and several flights – even some from London Airport – were cancelled. .
However, the situation is now very different, as according to Planespotters.net, Ryanair UK has nine 737-800s. For this summer, according to the latest Sirius schedule, the airline will have nine 737s based in Manchester (three), Stansted (three), Belfast (two) and Edinburgh (one). Of these, Belfast and Edinburgh will install Ryanair UK aircraft for the first time.