The boss of budget airline Ryanair says the Greek government is taxing tourists too highly.
While announcing new routes, including to Athens, Michael O’Leary also complained the privatisation of some Greek airports could mean his company having to pay more to use them and he threatened to pull out of some destinations if costs go too high, as he has done elsewhere.
Ryanair is cutting routes and jobs in Italy because of increased airport taxes and did the same in Germany in 2011.
O’Leary said: “Ryanair has invested in Athens and also in many of the Greek islands, and we are growing strongly here in the market because there is significant demand from all over Europe, from people who want to visit Athens and visit Greece.”
He revealed that in December 2015 the airline promised the Greek government it would bring in more visitors in exchange for lower airport charges but has yet to receive a response to that offer.
On the Greek government O’Leary said: “We trust the country but we do not necessarily agree with some of the economic policies. Particularly the high taxation on tourism, it is bad for Greek tourism and Greek jobs, particularly in a country where you have very high youth unemployment.”
The low-cost carrier’s expansion plans continue to put pressure on rivals, particularly the traditional airlines, as it takes advantage of the changing aviation travel landscape.
He told euronews: “The market is fracturing. Long-haul connecting travel will continue to go across big hubs, like Paris, London and Frankfurt. But short haul point to point, whether it is Greek domestic or it is intra- European, from London to Athens or from Santorini to Rome, that will fly with Ryanair in the next five or 10 years.”
The next battle ground is shaping up to be Germany where Ryanair just announced expansion with the ambition of increasing its market share from five percent to 20 pecent, going up against Air Berlin, Eurowings and EasyJet.