Spanair Employees Accuse Ryanair of “Breaking the Spanish Airline Industry”

Michael O'Leary
Ryanair President Michael O’Leary is rebuked by Spanair employees at Bilbao’s Loiu Airport.

Spanair Employees Accuse Ryanair of “Breaking the Spanish Airline Industry”
The president of the Irish airline had to be escorted by the Ertzaintza (Basque Public Guard)
In May, the low-cost airline company will open connections from Bilbao Loiu Airport to Madrid and Barcelona

El País: Empleados de Spanair culpan a Ryanair de “reventar el mercado aéreo español”
Leyre Pejenaute reporting from Bilbao February 7, 2012

This morning Spanair employees in Loiu Airport, who have locked themselves in the facility for the last nine days in protest of their circumstances after their company sank, protested a Ryanair presentation of new routes it will offer from the Biscayan airport by shouting, whistling, blowing horns, and pounding on window panes. They accused the Irish low-cost airline of “breaking the Spanish airline industry.”

Some thirty Spanair employees gathered before the room in which Ryanair President Michael O’Leary was giving a press conference. The person in charge of airline workers’ commissions in the Basque Country, Jon Herrera, has criticized O’Leary’s attitude: “it’s a provocation; he’s looking for free publicity.” The president of the Irish airline remarked that he was “surprised by the friendly welcome of our fans outside” in reference to the striking Spanair workers.

After the press conference, the President of Ryanair left the room, placed himself before the protestors, turned his back to them, and posed for the cameras making a Victory sign. A tablet in his hands displayed a 12 euro offer for one of his company’s flights. He showed once again his genius for low-cost promotion. The gesture inflamed the Spanair employees further, and they insulted the Irish businessman. O’Leary had to be escorted by the Public Guard to the boarding gate for his flight to Madrid, where he had another press conference scheduled.

Ryanair “is bringing our companies to absolute misery because they cannot compete which the prices they charge because of the subsidies they receive,” Herrera added. The Biscayan Regional Council assured this morning that it had not given any subsidies to the low-cost company.

“With this airline entering this airport with public funding, we’re going to have war day after day,” stressed Herrera, who nevertheless recognized that for now, there have been no announcements that Ryanair will receive public funding. “If they came here with conditions equal to those of all other companies, we couldn’t oppose them, but that would be odd, because they receive favorable treatment from the governments in all the communities in which they operate.”

Ryanair will open routes from Loiu to Madrid and Barcelona, with two flights a day from the month of May. O’Leary estimates that the two new routes will transport some 400,000 travelers a year (200,000 for each). The president has also revealed that Ryanair is considering establishing connections with the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Canary Islands, and this last destination will be confirmed before the end of March. Finally, he suggested that Bilbao would convert into the company’s eleventh Spanish base of operations. This action, O’Leary assured, would imply traffic of two million passengers per year and the creation of 2000 jobs: “Loiu has the necessary infrastructure, but the operations costs need to decrease so Ryanair can make money.”

The Irish airline, which anticipates it will indirectly create 400 jobs in the Biscayan airport, will use Boeing 737 planes with 189 seats each. Ryanair estimates that its arrival to Loiu will save customers €50 million, as median prices for the route will be situated between €19 and €25. The launch offer for the two new routes from Loiu is €19 and up, and tickets will go on sale on the company website this morning.

Though the low-cost company has assured it will invite “the old pilots, engineers, and flight assistants from Spanair to solicit jobs from Ryanair,” Herrera maintains that “this man, who has shown himself capable of placing himself before a workers’ collective that was on the street from afternoon to night and lifting his arm to make a victory sign, has offered us absolutely nothing.”

As for the Spanair workers at the airport, 80 on the ground alone and 200 including flight personnel, Herrera has assured that they will maintain the lock-in “until we have a solution.” At one in the afternoon, they met with the airport director to “exchange opinions about Ryanair bursting into the airport and the situation of Spanair workers.” They also announced that, among other meeting plans that will be made concrete tomorrow, they will go on with a march in Madrid set for this Thursday.

Translator’s Notes:
(1) The words “low cost” were used in the original article, suggesting the English term has become a Spanish catch phrase.
(2) Spanair’ majority stakeholders were the governments of Barcelona and Catalonia.

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