Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Michael O'Leary wants 'Israeli Ryanair'

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary

An "Israeli version of Ryanair" is being eyed by the airline, chief executive Michael O'Leary has said.

He confirmed that the scale of the airline's ambition in Israel extends far beyond operating just a few flights to the country.

Ryanair has previously indicated it wants to fly to Israel, but the extent of its plans for the country come despite political and military tensions in the region.

Mr O'Leary said Ryanair is also still keen to launch services to Russia from Ireland, despite tensions there.

He blamed a lack of support from tourism authorities as the reason for the delay in launching the routes.

"We're actively talking to the Israeli authorities, but the difficulty is that once you go outside Europe you need to have, in this case, an Israeli air operator's certificate," he said.

"But it's still very much on the front-foot for us. But the Israeli authorities have got much more nervous about protecting El-Al (the country's main airline) from competition because of the recent events.

"What we're looking to do in Israel is something much bigger," said Mr O'Leary, adding that he hopes for an Israeli version of Ryanair.

"We want to serve markets all over Israel to Russia, central Europe, the UK, Germany and a lot of other markets."

He said that Ryanair would have a big base in Israel if the plans come to fruition.

It had been expected that Ryanair would formally announce a Dublin to St Petersburg route before the end of the year, but that has not yet happened.

Mr O'Leary said that Ryanair has everything almost in place to launch the Russia service, including ground handling, but claimed that Tourism Ireland had so far been unwilling to back the service financially

"Services from Ireland to Moscow and St Petersburg would be very successful," he said. "I think there would be significant demand for them."

"But they're long flights and they would be a relatively low fare for a couple of years while you're building them up," said the airline boss.

"What strikes me as surprising is that at a time when the tourism industry is marketing Russia and China as two major targets, is that an airline that's willing to fly to Russia can't get any support from them."

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