Irish low-cost airline Ryanair is planning to capitalise on Spain’s tourism bonanza by opening up new routes from the country where it is already the market leader. As of February, the carrier plans to launch flights from Madrid to the Italian city of Bari, and to Glasgow and Prague, while Barcelona is expected to see new services to Krakow, Luxembourg, Prague and Venice.

At the same time, the airline will extend its winter flight schedule for both Madrid and the Catalan capital and boost the number of flights on a total of 12 existing routes from the two cities.

Under the plans, Ryanair forecasts it will carry 6.7 million people a year out of Madrid, or 12 percent more than current capacity, while the predicted rise in passenger numbers from Barcelona is 10 percent to 7.1 million.

The company headed by Michael O’Leary built on its position as the biggest airline in Spain in 2016, carrying 34.7 million passengers, a number it hopes will grow to 38 million this year, according to the carrier’s marketing director Kenny Jacobs.

The executive said Ryanair would pass savings on to customers in the wake of a Spanish government move to reduce airport taxes by 11 percent until 2021. The average ticket price for Ryanair flights in 2016 was €46 but this is expected to come down to €41 at the end of March. That’s against an average of €151 across all other airlines, according to estimates made by the Irish carrier.

Jacobs said the airline would continue to focus on short- and medium-haul flights in Europe with plans to add 220 new planes to its current fleet by 2024, but he noted that Ryanair was also looking at cooperating with IAG and Norwegian on long-haul flights.

 

Luggage clampdown

Ryanair has advised passengers that if they fail to comply with new more flexible cabin baggage rules, tougher restrictions could once again come into force. Currently passengers on the airline can bring one cabin bag weighing up to 10 kilograms with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, plus one small bag up to 35cm x 20cm x 20cm on board the aircraft.

But Ryanair’s marketing director Kenny Jacobs said many passengers had abused the system over the summer by trying to bring large pieces of luggage on board, especially backpacks. This delays flights and puts the airline’s punctuality record at risk, he said.

While Jacobs said the airline had improved its image with its ‘Always Getting Better’ program, he said staff had been told to be especially vigilant when it comes to cabin baggage weighing over 10 kilograms and to ensure the second item of baggage is not oversize.