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Ryanair Wants to Invest in Greece but with Lower Airport Charges

In what seems to be a shift from a previously-announced decision to shut down its base at Athens International Airport for winter and its operations in Chania (Crete), Eddie Wilson, the CEO of budget airline Ryanair, told Naftemporiki TV on Wednesday that the company wanted to invest in Greece.

According to Wilson, Greece is “underserved” by Ryanair.

“We serve 50 million passengers in Italy, almost 50 million in Spain, and only 6 million in Greece,” he said, calling for the extension of the tourist season in Greece and more investments.

Ryanair’s CEO said the large network of islands in Greece is in need of connectivity but airport charges are too high for companies like Ryanair to invest. The biggest problem, he said, was winter season charges.

Ryanair’s CEO, Eddie Wilson, on Naftemporiki TV.

Wilson said regional airports and Athens airport must adjust costs so that “when you bring more passengers, we have a lower cost per passenger” which would increase traffic all year round.

“We want to invest in Greece in the long term, not only for this winter but also for all winters. This way we can bring passengers not only to Athens, but also to Chania, Corfu, Rhodes, the Ionian islands, Volos and other places,” he said.

Chania, Crete

Referring to Chania, Wilson said there were no plans to shut down the base there adding however that “it is a summer base and was never intended to open for the winter”.

Ryanair's CEO, Eddie Wilson, during an event at the Chamber of Chania on Tuesday. Wilson presented the airline's development plan for strengthening Chania's tourism offer.

Ryanair’s CEO, Eddie Wilson, during an event at the Chamber of Chania on Tuesday. Wilson presented the airline’s development plan for strengthening Chania’s tourism offer.

Ryanair’s CEO visited Chania on Tuesday and met with tourism stakeholders, who he said are the ones spearheading efforts to keep tourist flows coming.

Wilson said that he told Chania’s professionals that Ryanair has the aircraft and would invest more in Chania, as well as other regional Greek airports, as long as the airports “adjust their costs”.

Ryanair has been flying in Chania since 2011, having already transported 3.5 million passengers and supporting around 700 jobs, according to data provided by the Chamber of Chania.

Earlier this month, the low cost carrier announced that it would close its Athens base on October 29 for the winter season, saying the decision was the result of a “dysfunctional” airport charging system.

“Athens Airport is a prime example of how the Greek government and German high-cost ownership is failing to deliver for Greece’s people and economy,” Wilson had said.

The issue has been ongoing since 2013, when Ryanair claimed that it could bring millions of tourists to Greece as long as Athens International Airport (AIA) reduced the air passenger duty for new connections to and from Athens.

Wilson on Tuesday also met with Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias who informed him that the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) in the coming days will announce incentives for airlines in the winter period.

“I will wait to see those (incentives). Let’s hope that they are meaningful and give us the confidence to grow for the long term,” he said to Naftemporiki TV.

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