Irish low cost airline Ryanair plans to increase the number of passengers it flies to the Canary islands from just 300,000 in 2009 to 4.5 million.
In February the airline will open new bases in Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria (pictured above), with two aircraft based at each airport during the summer season. Thirty-five new routes will be added, bring the total to 112, and frequencies on existing routes (including Fuerteventura) will be increased.
The move marks the apparent victory of Ryanair in a battle of wills with the Canary Islands regional government; the tough-nosed airline previously withdrew some flights (notably to Fuerteventura) when it was dissatisfied with the landing charges and marketing support on offer.
It seems the tourism-dependent islands have now accepted that they need Ryanair more than the airline needs them. Airport charges in the islands have been reduced and a Regional Marketing Fund to support continued air traffic growth, will operate from 2013-2015.
Ryanair says the expansion reflects an investment of £400 million, though whether all of this comes from the airline isn’t clear. It also claims the move will sustain over 4,500 local jobs including 350 Ryanair pilots, cabin crew and engineers. Again, the exact nature of the claim is opaque as sustain isn’t the same as create.
The new routes “will be phased in from February 2011 to deliver more low fares and high spending visitors to Fuerteventura and our new bases in Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife,” said Ryanair’s Michael Cawley. He paid tribute to the “visionary initiatives of the Canary Islands Government who, in recent years, have identified low fare access as being critical, and have worked with Ryanair to reduce airport costs in order to return tourism to its previous 2007 record levels.”
Most of the new routes are to destinations in mainland Europe, but three are from Britain. Birmingham gets a new flight to Fuerteventura; Leeds Bradford connects with Lanzarote and Doncaster to Tenerife. New Irish routes are Shannon–Fuerteventura, Cork to Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and Knock to Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife.