Ryanair to stop using Chania as a hub, reduces flights


In a statement issued Wednesday, budget airline Ryanair confirmed  that it cancels domestic flights between Athens and  Chania.  The airline will also stop using Chania international airport as a regional hub from 1 June and transfer one aircraft from Athens and another from Chania to Germany, where it is expanding its services. Ryanair  blamed high airport charges for the cuts. Last flights offered on Athens-Chania route are until May 30th 2018.

“Ryanair’s base in Chania will close, with the result that four, low-frequency flights from Chania to Venice [Italy], Vilnius {Lithuania], Katowice [Poland] and Memmingen [Germany] will be abolished. Ryanair will continue to link Athens with Mykonos, Santorini and Thessaloniki this summer. All the other domestic flights in Greece will be cancelled,” said the company’s announcement.

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary has a record of  threatening  countries with withdrawal of services in exchange for a more favourable treatment for his airline.

In 2010 Michael O’Leary had to defend  the airline against accusations of financial blackmail made by French regional airports, after demanding €1.4 million in “marketing fees”, a quadrupling of its agreed deal.

In 2011 threatened  to reduce services in Spain unless fines against the company are waived and in 2012 Ryanair threatened to ditch its operations in Norway amid a tax row over pilots’ fees.

More recently the company has threatened to ground planes after Brexit to make voters ‘rethink’ withdrawal from the EU.

In this sense, the latest move could just be a negotiating tactic on the part of Ryanair expecting an offer from the Greek authorities.

Ryanair has long argued for lowering airport fees in Chania for the winter period in order to provide an all year round service but the company claims it got no response from the Greek authorities.  Ryanair has also been critical of the concession of Chania airport to Fraport and Fraport’s operational model for growth, arguing for all year round flights at a better level of charges.

Given the importance of reliable air services to the economic development of Chania it is time for the Greek authorities and the region of Crete to think seriously of a strategy to re- establish a good level of service with existing destinations  and extend air links with Europe  beyond the summer season.

Maybe the authorities could do their sums and consider the cost of making an improved offer of ‘marketing fees’ to Ryanair against the benefits of an increase in visitors. Alternatively the authorities could try to attract one or preferrably more than one of the multitude of existing budget airlines to take over the Chania routes Ryanair abandoned. Wizz air, easyJet and Norwegian  would be a good place to start.