Ryanair Holdings Plc is looking at setting up a base in Slovakia to help double passenger traffic there in the latest step of an expansion into Eastern Europe.
Europe’s biggest discount airline aims to lift passenger numbers on routes to Bratislava from the 800,000 projected for this year to more than 2 million and is in talks about basing planes there, Chief Executive Office Michael O’Leary said today.
Ryanair serves Bratislava from 16 locations, among them London and Rome, and ranks as the top carrier to the city after starting operations in 2005. The airport’s capacity jumped to 5 million passengers a year from 2 million after a recent upgrade.
“There is room to grow and I’d like to see some Boeings based in Bratislava,” said O’Leary, who last month placed an order for 175 737-800 planes with a list price of $15.6 billion.
Dublin-based Ryanair has 54 bases, defined as cities where it stations aircraft, with three more due to open this month. The company advertises the Slovak route as being to “Bratislava Vienna” because of the airport’s location about 44 miles from the Austrian capital, to which it doesn’t fly.
Filling a Gap
Czechoslovak Airlines ended operations under that name in 1995, two years after the country it served split in two, rebranding as Czech Airlines and leaving Slovakia without a national carrier. Bratislava became a base for discount operator SkyEurope Airlines before folding in 2009, and other local startups including Air Slovakia have also failed.
O’Leary said today that Ryanair has no plans to add operations to locations in the Persian Gulf, after no-frills rival Wizz Air Ltd. of Hungary was this month announced as a first client of the new Dubai World Central airport, which it will serve from Budapest, Kiev, Bucharest and Sofia.
“Other low-cost carriers are looking for markets where they don’t need to compete with Ryanair,” he said. “Once you go outside the European Union it’s a regulated market -- you need to get permission from some Middle Eastern government. We don’t want to grow in the Middle East; we want to grow in Europe.”