Ryanair to cut Belgium flights over local air tax

Ryanair has threatened to cut services to and from Belgium’s Charleroi Airport after the local Walloon government decided to impose a EUR3 tax on airfares.

The tax will be effective from January 1, following a decision by the Walloon administration, but subject to approval by the central government in Brussels.

Ryanair said that it would cut almost one in five services if the levy is approved, resulting in one million fewer passengers. Ryanair, the biggest airline operator in the southern Wallonia region, and the single biggest operator at Charleroi, also claimed the move would result in 1,000 job losses. The carrier presently operates more than 80 percent of services at Charleroi, carrying 5.35 million passengers last year.

‘Studies have demonstrated the damage caused to traffic and jobs by passenger taxes, especially in Germany, Ireland and the UK,’ a Ryanair spokesman said, adding that Ryanair would call for the plans to be scrapped.

Jean-Jacques Cloquet, the head of Charleroi airport, said he could not comprehend the local government decision, adding: ‘It could do a lot of damage to the Charleroi region.’

‘For me, it’s not a good decision,’ he said, adding that he expected the central government will block the tax.

However, Andre Antoine, the Wallonia budget minister, claimed that Ryanair makes large profits and a EUR3 levy on airfares from the region would not hit traffic.

Ryanair has been operating to Charleroi since 1997, and the airport was the carrier’s first base on the Continent. The airport reportedly receives substantial grants from the local government, with Brussels Airlines claiming last year that Charleroi receives a EUR12 subsidy per passenger.

Earlier this month, the European Commission announced plans to slash government subsidies to regional airports.