Irish budget air carrier Ryanair is to increase services in Spain over the next year, but admits that it has been cutting fares by up to 30 percent to fill flights to Barcelona and other cities in Catalunya, as holidaymakers are nervous of political upheaval in the region.
Tourist numbers in Barcelona dipped after an attack in August left 16 people dead and an illegal independence vote prompted scenes of police violence and mass protests, but have since rebounded.
Ryanair still plans to increase capacity in Spain as a whole sharply in the coming year, adding nine percent more flights in the year to March 2019, chief executive Michael O‘Leary said in Madrid this week, compared with an increase of six percent in its network as a whole.
The company has committed to services to Murcia’s new Corvera airport in addition to its operations at Alicante-Elche, which will feature new routes to Newquay in Cornwall, in addition to Sevilla and Gdansk in northern Poland, as part of 29 new services launched from Spain by the company.
Capacity in Spain has increased in recent years as operators have moved from destinations in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of attacks on tourists.
One threat to Ryanair’s rapid expansion plans are relations with pilots. While strike threats in December were averted by a pledge to recognise unions for the first time, the airline has so far only managed to reach a recognition agreement with one of the seven unions with which it is in talks.
O‘Leary said Spain’s SEPLA pilots’ union had not yet responded to offers of a pay rise and terms for union recognition and Ryanair was considering bypassing the union and offering the increase directly to pilots – something it has done in Ireland.