Ryanair slashes flights after row over stairs

Ryanair will cut half its routes from Alicante, Spain, after the airport there said people must board via airbridges instead of stairs in a move the carrier says will cost it 2 million euros ($A2.75 million) a year.

Ryanair faces a charge to fund the bridges or jetways at Alicante's new terminal and also prefers stairs because they can be used at both doors, cutting boarding times, it said today. State airport operator Aena said a fee of 30 cents a ticket "isn't expensive" and that people find bridges more comfortable.

"Ryanair has been operating at Alicante for over five years without the use of airbridges and this decision is an abuse of Aena's monopoly," the Irish carrier said. "The new terminal has exactly the same stairs as the old terminal, which would allow Ryanair to continue to apply walk on/walk off boarding."

Europe's biggest low-cost carrier plans to eliminate 31 of its 62 routes from Alicante and reduce the number of planes based there from 11 to two, it said in a statement, adding that the service cuts will cost Aena more than 30 million euros in passenger and turnaround fees and lost commercial sales.

'More Modern'

"Airbridges are more comfortable and modern for passengers and that's the main reason Aena has decided to use them," Laura Baldo, a spokeswoman for the airport operator, said in a phone interview. "We aren't talking about a big amount of money."

Alicante is Spain's sixth-busiest airport, attracting 9.4 million passengers last year, according to Aena. Dublin-based Ryanair contributed more than 4 million, or in excess of 40 per cent of the total.

The cuts, to be imposed in October, when travel to the Mediterranean tends to fall off in the run up to winter, will reduce that to fewer than 1.5 million people, the carrier said.

Madrid-Barajas airport and Barcelona's El Prat are used by Ryanair and already have jetways, Baldo said, adding that some carriers still board via bus at in Alicante but that the Irish company wants people walk to its planes, something considered "very risky" following the new terminal's opening on March 24.

Ryanair stock has declined 12 percent this year in Dublin trading, valuing the company at 4.94 billion euros.

Paul Moore, a spokesman for EasyJet, Europe's second- biggest discount airline, said that while turnaround times are typically quicker with steps, many airports don't offer a choice and that the Luton, England-based company doesn't generally make route decisions based on their availability or otherwise.