Ryanair offers Stansted to Poznan from £15.99, introduces customer service improvements

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low fares airline, has said that passengers can now book to fly from London Stansted to Poznan in January and February, from £15.99, as part of its weekly ‘Bargain Thursday’ promotion.

From midnight of November 28, passengers can book 100,000 ‘Bargain Thursday’ seats on over 1,000 European routes, including London Stansted to Poznan, at prices starting from £15.99, for travel from Monday to Thursday in January and February. The ‘all in’ low fares are only available until midnight of December 2.

Ryanair’s £15.99 sale fare includes all non-optional taxes, charges and fees, so that passengers who only travel with carry-on luggage and decline the priority boarding service can book, check-in online and fly for this advertised £15.99 fare on these ‘Bargain Thursday’ flights.

Ryanair’s Robin Kiely said: ‘Only Ryanair sells Europe’s lowest fares with no fuel surcharges guaranteed, across over 1,600 routes, connecting 183 destinations, while delivering Europe’s No 1 customer service, with the most on-time flights, fewest cancellations and least mishandled bags.

Separately, Ryanair said that starting from Sunday all Ryanair passengers may now bring a second small carry-on bag (35 x 20 x 20cm) aboard, in addition to a free 10kg cabin bag allowance, while its boarding card reissue fee has been cut from €70/£70 to €15/£15 for customers who have already checked-in online.

The latest customer service improvements are part of a wider plan that includes the launch of the new customer-friendly Ryanair.com home page. The airline has also introduced quiet flights and 24-hour grace periods for correcting minor booking errors. Other measures, such as reducing standard airport bag fees from €60/£60 will be introduced from January 3, and fully allocated seating from February 1, the airline said.

Ryanair to launch 12 new routes from Stansted, increase flights on 17 routes

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low fares airline, has said that it will launch 12 new routes from London Stansted in April 2014.

The airline will also add frequencies on 17 existing routes, which will deliver an additional 1,300,000 passengers p.a. and support 1,300 new on-site jobs at London Stansted Airport. The carrier, which presently serves 126 routes from the airport, will increase its weekly flights from the base from 430 to 600.

The 12 new routes being introduced are to Basel, Bordeaux, Brive, Bucharest, Comiso, Dortmund, Lisbon, Osijek, Podgorica, Prague, Rabat and Skelleftea.

Of the new routes, Lisbon will have the highest frequency at 28 weekly flights. Bordeaux and Rabat will gain six weekly flights each, while Basel, Bucharest, Dortmund and Prague will get 14 flights a week. Four weekly flights will be launched between Brive, Comiso, Osijek, Podgorica and Skelleftea, Routes News said in an online report.

Out of the 17 routes with increased frequencies, the largest increases will be to Barcelona (28 to 56 weekly); Madrid (28 to 56); Milan/Berg (42 to 56); and Rome (42 to 56), it added.

The route expansion is part of Ryanair’s 10-year growth agreement with operator, Manchester Airports Group (MAG). Under the 10-year deal, which comes into effect next April, Ryanair will boost its existing passengers from Stansted from 13.2 mppa to 20 mppa.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said: ‘Ryanair is pleased to deliver 12 new Europe routes to/from Stansted to Basel, Bordeaux, Brive, Bucharest, Comiso, Dortmund, Lisbon, Osijek, Podgorica, Prague, Rabat and Skelleftea, as well as increased frequencies on 17 existing routes, which will deliver over 1,300,000 additional passengers per annum and sustain over 1,300 ‘on-site’ jobs at Stansted Airport. As Stansted’s biggest airline, Ryanair looks forward to growing traffic, routes and jobs at Stansted.’

MAG’s chief executive, Charlie Cornish, said: ‘Today’s announcement by Ryanair is fantastic news for Stansted, the region and the passengers who rely on the airport to provide a connection to and from all parts of Europe. The new destinations and increase in flights on key routes will offer passengers and businesses even more choice at great value and build on the strength of Ryanair’s extensive network at Stansted, the airline’s largest base in Europe. Ryanair is an important and valued customer for Stansted and M.A.G. We’re delighted to support the airline’s expansion plans for next summer with this announcement coming hot on the heels of our joint 10 year growth agreement.’

Airport staff decides for strike action in pay dispute

The check-in staff and baggage handlers at the UK’s four busiest airports have voted for strike action in a dispute over pay, Travel Weekly has reported.

Staff and workers at the ground handling company, Swissport, based at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted, have voted in favour of strike action. A poll by Unite union members has seen 94 percent voting in favour of strike action, based on a turnout of 50.5 percent.

Following the vote, the company has called for an urgent meeting with the Unite union, which is taking place today.

Unite national officer, Oliver Richardson, said: ‘In the light of this overwhelming mandate for action, Swissport has requested talks which we are happy to attend so we can try to resolve this matter.

‘The dispute centres on the company’s decision to freeze workers pay for eighteen months, from April 2012 through to October 2013, followed by a below-inflation increase of just 2.5 percent.

‘Our members are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living,’ he said, adding that the union believes Swissport is failing to recognise the contribution that its staff members are making to the success of the company.

‘We hope that over the coming days we will be able to thrash out a deal with the company but this will depend on whether the company is prepared to move on from its current position on pay,’ said Richardson.

Swissport International Limited provides ground services for around 118 million passengers and handles 3.5 million tons of cargo a year on behalf of some 650 client-companies in the aviation sector. With a workforce of around 40,000 personnel, Swissport is active at 181 stations in 37 countries across five continents.

In the UK, Swissport’s clients include Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Thomson at Stansted; Monarch, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates at Manchester; Monarch, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Virgin and British Airways at Gatwick and Virgin at Heathrow.

Stansted airport expansion ‘unwanted and unviable,’ says Essex council

Essex County Council has commented that the plans to expand Stansted Airport into a four-runway ‘super-hub’ were ‘unwanted and unviable,’ according to a report by the BBC.

In July, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted Airport, submitted its expansion plans to the government-appointed Airports Commission, headed by former Financial Services Authority chairman, Sir Howard Davies. MAG’s proposal calls for an additional runway that could increase Stansted’s capacity to 70 to 90 million passengers a year, or the building of a GBP10bn ‘hub’ with four runways with a capacity of up to 160 million passengers.

Charlie Cornish, MAG’s chief executive, has said previously that developing Stansted would be a ‘pragmatic approach.’

The airport said the Hub proposal was one of ‘a number of long-term options.’ ‘We can double the number of flights today by 130,000 without any need for significant investment in new infrastructure, and have submitted a number of long-term options for consideration by the Airports Commission,’ an airport spokesperson said.

Council leader, David Finch, has now told the Airports Commission that the super-hub plans were ‘completely unacceptable to Essex residents.’

Finch said: ‘The UK does not have the time or the money to waste on unpractical or undeliverable schemes that could suck up a sum of taxpayer’s money equivalent to twice the UK’s defence budget. Any proposal for a giant super-hub airport at Stansted is completely unacceptable to the council and Essex residents.’

He added: ‘If ministers in London do impose further capacity on our airport, they need to know that a bill comes with that. We would need assurances that the environmental impact would be minimised and that there would be massive investment in road and rail infrastructure for Essex.’

Peter Sanders, Stop Stansted Expansion chairman, has alleged earlier that the MAG proposals had been ‘framed’ in an ‘unenthusiastic, half-hearted way.’ ‘We will be doing everything possible to convince the Airports Commission to reject the idea of any new runways at Stansted,’ he said.

The council has told the commission that it favours ‘sensible growth’ and agrees that additional runway capacity is ‘likely to be inevitable in the long term.’

The Airports Commission will consider MAG’s proposals for Stansted alongside expansion proposals it has received for Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham, and plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

The commission is due to produce a shortlist by the end of the year and will offer its final recommendations in two years’ time.

Stansted baggage scanner strike called off

The planned strike by the baggage scanning staff at Stansted airport, UK, has been called off after the staff reached an agreement with employers, Mitie.

The strike, which was announced after a dispute over pay, was originally planned from August 23 to 26, with action to be effective between 3.30am and 6am and 3.30pm and 6pm each day. The UK trade union, GMB, has now said that its members had reached an agreement after talks between the two parties.

The dispute involving baggage scanners began in June this year when Mitie, the contractor who employs the GMB members to run the baggage system, imposed pay cuts that included a cut in premium rates for night work and overtime by 3.5 percent, and increased pay rates of 2 percent.

The decision to strike was initially made after 92 percent of members voted in favour of action. The strike could have caused significant delays for passengers or leave them with the option of travelling with cabin luggage alone.

GMB said that they were pleased that Mitie had agreed to pay members what they had been asking for since October 2012. ‘GMB members employed by Mitie at Stansted Airport have voted to accept an improved offer and GMB have now informed the company that strike action has been withdrawn’.

Gary Pearce, GMB Regional officer, said: ‘I am glad that common sense has prevailed and that Mitie has agreed to pay what GMB members have been asking for since October of last year.

‘I have now given notice to the company that the strike action has now been withdrawn.’

Stansted’s baggage scanning staff to strike on bank holiday

The baggage-scanning operatives at Stansted Airport are set to go on strike during the bank holiday weekend following a vote over pay cuts.

Members of the UK trade union, GMB, have voted in favour of strike action and said that pay cuts are not acceptable to members. The strike is planned from August 23 to 26 and the action will be effective between 3.30am and 6am and 3.30pm and 6pm each day.

Members were 92 percent in favour of strike action over the pay cuts for staff employed to screen checked-in baggage before it goes into the holds of aircraft. The strike could mean passengers will be left with the choice of being delayed or travelling with cabin luggage alone.

Mitie, the contractor who employs the GMB members to run the baggage system, imposed pay cuts from June, which included a cut in premium rates for night work and overtime of 3.5 percent, and increased pay rates of 2 percent.

Gary Pearce, GMB regional officer, said ‘Mitie are expecting GMB members to agree to the removal of premium rates for working nights or overtime worth 3.5 percent to pay for a pay rise of 2 percent. In spite of months of talks telling the company this was not acceptable to our members they went ahead and imposed these pay cuts from June. GMB members have rejected this imposition. They have now voted overwhelmingly for strike action.’

The walkout will cause ‘huge delays’, he said, adding: ‘Our members will have two stoppages of two and a half hours each, to avoid closing the check in desks for the whole day.’

‘GMB as always is available to have discussions – but only the restoration of these premium rates will avert these stoppages,’ Pearce said.

A spokesman for Mitie said: ‘We hope that we will be able to reach an agreement with the union, but if we can’t full contingency plans will be put into place to ensure any disruption to passengers is kept to a minimum.’

Stansted airport to receive £80 million upgrade

Stansted airport in Essex, UK, has today unveiled a £80 million development project.

Mike Davies, the chairman of the airport’s owner, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), was joined by the UK’s transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, and the airport’s managing director, Andrew Harrison, when details of the plan were revealed, which is intended to ‘transform Stansted’s iconic terminal building and meet the demands of modern air travel’.

The upgrade, which has been designed with the help of psychologists in order to minimise passenger stress and maximise relaxation, will involve better use of existing space, new security facilities and a larger departure lounge.

Half of the cost of the project is being funded by MAG, with the additional GBP40 million from commercial partners.

The transport secretary commented, ‘Just three months into its ownership of the airport MAG has shown it is prepared to invest in the infrastructure to improve passenger services and provide new facilities. The millions invested in this project will transform Stansted Airport’s terminal building and the way passengers use it. That’s not just good news for travellers, it’s also good news for the country because this sort of improvement to our transport infrastructure helps to make the UK more competitive in the global economic race.’

Andrew Harrison said, ‘Today marks the start of a significant investment programme to transform the terminal and help deliver our ambitious plans to radically improve Stansted and make it the airport of choice in London for airlines and passengers alike.

‘The way airlines and passengers use the airport has dramatically changed over recent years with far fewer passengers using check-in desks or travelling with hold baggage but spending more time in the departure lounge. This exciting transformation project responds to these changing trends and will create a quicker and more efficient security process and bring some sparkle to what is already a fantastic terminal.

‘Our focus is to provide great service and facilities and put Stansted in the strongest position to compete effectively for new routes, airlines and passengers and this transformation of our terminal is a critical element in achieving this aim and central to our future growth plans for Stansted.’

Manchester Airports buys Stansted for £1.5bn

Manchester Airports Group, the owners of the Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports in the UK, has agreed to buy Stansted Airport for £1.5bn.

The UK’s fourth busiest airport by passenger numbers is being sold by Heathrow Airport Holdings, formerly BAA, following the organisation’s decision not to contest an order from competition regulators for it to sell Stansted. Three of the UK’s largest airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, were all originally owned by BAA, but following pressure from the Competition Commission, BAA will now only retain Heathrow and a few smaller airports, including Glasgow.

The leading shareholders in Manchester Airports Group are Greater Manchester’s 10 councils. Charlie Cornish, Manchester Airlines Group chief executive, said, ‘We are delighted to be successful in our bid for Stansted Airport, the London airport for Europe. The transaction represents a significant milestone in the achievement of our previously stated strategy of adding a quality airport to the group and delivering long-term value to our shareholders.’

Heathrow Airport’s chief executive, Colin Matthews, said, ‘Stansted Airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time. We wish the new owners every success and are confident the airport will continue to flourish. We will continue to focus on improving Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.’

MAG serves around 24 million passengers and handles 500,000 tons of airfreight every year across its existing airport properties, contributing £3.2bn to the UK economy and supporting in excess of 130,000 jobs.

The sale is expected to close by the beginning of March this year.

Manchester Airport Group to Bid for London Stansted Airport

Manchester Airport Group (MAG), a UK based holding company that owns Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth Airports in the UK, will be making an official bid to acquire London Stansted Airport in the UK.

The company is interested in acquiring the airport in partnership with an Australian investment company, Industry Funds Management. London Stansted Airport, which is being sold by its owner, BAA Ltd, the owner and operator of six British airports including London Heathrow, is assessed to be worth around £1 billion.

MAG said that it would partner with an infrastructure specialist to try to buy Stansted.

Charlie Cornish, the chief executive officer of Manchester Airport Group, said, ‘Having conducted a strategic review of the group, we believe Stansted’s addition to MAG will generate shareholder value in combination with our existing airports in the north, south-west and Midlands markets.

MAG has a proven track record in running profitable, growing airports through its successful approach to customer service, retail, car parking, property management and aviation development, which would benefit passengers in the south-east.

IFM share our long-term investment vision and by moulding its financial strength alongside ours and with our strong background of airport management experience, we believe we can play a vital role in the successful growth of the British aviation industry and UK PLC.’

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, has previously withdrawn its offer to acquire Stansted Airport, on being advised by BAA. The airline is the largest airline operating out of the airport, with around 70 percent of the current traffic.

Ryanair Announces Withdrawal from London Stansted Airport Acquisition

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, has withdrawn its offer to acquire London Stansted Airport in the UK.

The airline has been advised by BAA Stansted’s owner, Ferrovial, that it will exclude Ryanair from the Stansted sale process. The airline is the largest airline operating out of the airport, with around 70 percent of the current traffic.

The airline head of communications, Stephen McNamara, said, ‘We regret Ferrovial’s decision to exclude Ryanair from the Stansted sale process and the failure of the Competition Commission to restrain this anti-competitive and anti-customer behaviour by Ferrovial.

While we fully accept that Ferrovial is entirely free not to sell to Ryanair, we fail to understand how it can comply with competition law if Stansted’s biggest customer, accounting for 70 percent of the traffic, is excluded from this sale process.

This year’s continuing traffic decline underlines the extraordinary damage done to Stansted airlines and passengers by the Ferrovial/BAA airport monopoly and we look forward to discussing cost reductions and traffic growth with the new owners of Stansted when it is finally sold.

The only way Stansted’s traffic decline can be reversed is if its uncompetitive charges are significantly reduced, initially by reversing the disastrous 100 percent price increase imposed by the BAA monopoly at Stansted in 2007.’

Ryanair was initially interested in acquiring a minority stake in the airport, and has written to all investors with regards to its decision to back out of the sales process.

Stansted Airport is London’s third busiest airport, and the fourth busiest airport in the UK. Around 17.5m passengers and 133,500 flights touch down at the airport every year.