New protest at APD
Ryanair is to freeze all growth in the UK until the government scraps the Air Passenger Duty (APD) and speeds up the break up of BAA.
Michael O'Leary, the low cost carrier's ceo, said in London today (June 23) said it also planned to allow passengers to carry an "unlimited" number of bags onto its aircraft next year.
He said he also expected to see gambling and gaming facilities on board within the next five years.
Mr O'Leary said UK passengers figures had dropped from 34m to 32m year on year.
"This is in the context of an airline which will carry 9m more passengers this year," he said.
He said he could double the number of passengers in the UK and open new bases or expand existing ones.
He cited Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Liverpool and Edinburgh as cities where he could grow.
But all growth would be frozen "for the foreseeable future" until there was "some change" in government policy on the APD and the speed of the break up of BAA.
The £10 APD is due to rise to £11 in November and £12 in November 2010.
The airport owner has been ordered by the UK Competition Commission to sell off Gatwick and Stansted and one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh.
But this could be delayed by BAA's intention to appeal against the ruling.
Mr O'Leary said the appeal "hadn't a hope in hell" of succeeding.
At the press conference he said that the APD had caused tourism in Britain to collapse.
"Gordon Brown's £10 tourist tax will see Britain lose over 10m passengers, 10,000 airport jobs and more than £2.5bn in tourism spend in the UK alone this year," he said.
Other countries, notably Belgium, The Netherlands, Greece and Spain had either decided against the tax, scrapped it or cut airport charges.
The UK tax was making the country an "uncompetitive destination" and was also a levy which favoured the rich at the expense of the poor.
Mr O'Leary said Ryanair planned to allow passengers to carry "unlimited" baggage to its planes from next year.
Passengers would not have to check in any baggage but simply leave their bags "at the foot of the aircraft stairs.
From there, a baggage handler would load them onto the plane. Passengers would be allowed, as now, to carry one bag aboard.
Mr O'Leary said the plan, which has not been discussed with BAA, would save Ryanair £20-30m a year.
He said he also expects to save the carrier £50m a year through online check in which comes into force from October 1.
He said he expected the move would cause the loss of 200 jobs at Ryanair in the UK.