Ryanair expects to take a 25% stake in Stansted airport and boost passenger numbers enough to account for most air traffic growth in the southeast over coming years.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary said a string of consortia keen on buying the airport had asked Ryanair “what would it take for you to grow traffic?”
O’Leary said: “Most of the consortia want us to take a stake. I’d be happy with an agreement and no stake. But they’re keen to work with Ryanair to increase traffic.”
Stansted’s current owner BAA abandoned attempts to overturn a Competition Commission ruling and put the airport up for sale last month. A deal is expected by the end of the year.
Speaking in London yesterday, O’Leary blamed “gross mismanagement by BAA” and “complete regulatory incompetence by the CAA” for a sharp decline in traffic at Stansted over the past five years. He said: “There is enormous opportunity for cutting the cost base at Stansted.
“You could take the airport [from 30 million] to 60 million passengers a year and account for nearly all the growth in the southeast.”
O’Leary said: “Most of the potential bidders [for the airport] want to make as much money as they can quickly. We have a different vision. We’d like to be involved long term, significantly lower costs and drive rapid growth.
“We’d get rid of the cathedral-like check-in hall. We’d get more space airside for retail. We’d blow up the Noddy train that costs £1 million a week to shuttle to a terminal 40 yards away. We’d do sensible things.
“We’d change the whole structure of the airport to lower costs, increase the number of flights and increase traffic.”
However, O’Leary said Ryanair would take no more than a 24.99% stake because “more would cause a regulatory problem.”
He insisted: “The next runway in the southeast will be at Stansted, before Heathrow or Gatwick. It already has planning permission. Not in my lifetime or my children’s lifetimes will there be a new airport in the Thames estuary.”
But he said there would be new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick, arguing: “The government needs to come up with an aviation strategy. Pandering to environmental dimwits is not a strategy.”
And he had a message for “those who have bought houses near Heathrow”: “Get over yourselves or move.”
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