AENA’s stand is important

By Doug Newhouse |

The sheer strength of Ryanair in Spain is all the more reason why the stand being taken by Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA) on the airline’s ‘one-bag rule’ is so important to the travel retail industry.

It is also courageous, having lobbied the Spanish Government to pass a law guaranteeing passenger rights to carry on hand luggage in the full knowledge that Ryanair carried more than 26m passengers to, from and within Spain in the last year.

Last week, AENA’s Director Commercial Services & Properties, Mariano Sanz only underlined the Spanish airport authority’s resolve to see that the legislation is adhered to.

Speaking to travel retail journalists at the formal unveiling of Aldeasa’s new shops at Alicante Airport’s new E.629m ($911m) 333,500sq m terminal he said: “We are very happy with our partnership with Ryanair. They bring much growth to our airports, but they also introduce conditions that can make doing business difficult. The one-bag rule has had a big impact on sales. 

“With this new law passengers are allowed to take an extra bag with purchases onto their flights. We have communicated strongly and clearly to Ryanair that they must obey the rules. When we told them, they said they don’t follow Spanish law, they follow Irish law. 

“Obviously that’s something that our country or AENA cannot tolerate and we have repeated that they must follow the Spanish rules.”

He added: “AENA and the Spanish government is not keen on conflict, it’s not what we’re looking for, but we must and we will defend the passengers’ rights to the end. 

“Airlines are very keen for us to reduce taxes and we could be very supportive of that, but for that to happen AENA needs to be able to increase the commercial revenue and this is made more difficult by restricting passengers to one bag. Decreasing commercial revenues and decreasing taxes is not an option for us.”

While the disagreement over which law applies where continues, it would appear that AENA may have already taken some reassurance from the following statement under Article 11 of the Chicago Convention, which states: “Subject to the provisions of this Convention, the laws and regulations of a contracting State relating to the admission to or departure from its territory of aircraft engaged in international air navigation, or to the operation and navigation of such aircraft while within its territory, shall be applied to the aircraft of all contracting States without distinction as to nationality, and shall be complied with by such aircraft upon entering or departing from or while within the territory of that State.”

Meanwhile, as the largest airline in the Spanish network, Ryanair currently delivers 31% of all passengers into Alicante and 27% into AENA’s airports overall and is described by AENA as ‘an extremely good client’. However, there is no doubt that the airline’s defiant stance on the ‘one-bag policy’ is testing relations. 

As reported already, Alicante Airport and AENA already face the prospect of Ryanair reducing the number of passengers it brings to Alicante every year from 4m to 1.5m, following a disagreement over air bridge charges.

Ryanair argues that since it has not used air bridges before, it doesn’t need them now and it believes they will cause passenger loading delays since air bridges only allow passengers to be boarded from the front of the aircraft.

While this and the interpretation of jurisdiction over the one-bag rule continue, AENA will also be mindful of the impact that Ryanair has on its business. 

This year the low-cost carrier says that its Spanish growth is set to continue at pace, as it outlined clearly in a statement recently: “Ryanair’s Spanish growth will continue in 2011 at those airports which are working with Ryanair to lower costs and increase traffic. Ryanair will deliver significant growth at its bases in Barcelona El Prat (+300%), Seville (+90%), Gran Canaria (+50%), Lanzarote (+50%), Tenerife (+50%), Valencia (+40%) and Malaga (+20%).”

Underlining this, Ryanair Ceo Michael O’Leary said earlier this month: “Ryanair’s guaranteed lowest fares combined with our industry leading on-time performance and fewest lost bags continue to attract more passengers away from Iberia and we are delighted that 2010 was a record year for Ryanair in Spain with 26m passengers supporting 26,000 Spanish jobs.

“2011 looks set to be another bumper year at those Spanish airports that are working with Ryanair to reduce costs and grow passengers.”


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