1 February 2002

New routes part of Ryanair's aim to be No 1

By Paul Marston, Transport Correspondent

Eight new low-fare routes from London Stansted were announced by Ryanair yesterday.

They are part of the airline's plan to become Europe's largest short-haul operator within five years. The expanded network includes Rome and Milan Bergamo, starting at £38 return.

Other destinations are Montpellier in southern France, Friedrichshafen in south-west Germany, Graz and Klagenfurt in Austria and the Dutch city of Eindhoven. Services from Liverpool to Brussels and Glasgow Prestwick to Oslo are also opening.

The sole new domestic route is Newquay. Ryanair is to fly to the Cornish resort twice a day from April, starting at £78. BA, which has a monopoly on the route at the moment, charges more than £300 for a midweek journey.

Ryanair will also compete with train operators such as First Great Western and South West Trains. Although prices are similar, the airline will be able to offer a one-hour journey, compared with more than six by rail.

Ryanair now serves 34 continental destinations from its base at Stansted, compared with 58 by BA from Heathrow and Gatwick. But BA is expected to cut its total significantly in a drive to return to profitability.

Ryanair expects to carry 12.5 million passengers this year, 25 per cent up on 2001. This would make it the fourth biggest operator behind British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France.

Despite the downturn among the established airlines since September 11, it has continued to grow and says it is attracting 20 per cent more business travellers than before the attacks.

Ryanair will have 44 aircraft in operation this summer and plans to double its fleet by about 2007.