Ryanair wants to open a new training centre for pilots and cabin crew in the Iberian Peninsula and said that Porto was one of the places under consideration, the chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said on Friday.
“We are interested in opening a training centre in Iberia. […] It would be very good for us to have a training centre [on the Iberian Peninsula], but we are talking about Porto, not Lisbon,” the Irish airline’s leader said at a meeting with journalists at Ryanair’s premises in Dublin.
He said that Porto was on the table as the airline has a significant operation at that airport.
The location has not yet been decided, but the decision should be announced this year.
Asked whether opening a training centre in Portugal would be a way of putting pressure on TAP and the government to free up airport slots, Michael O’Leary rejected the idea.
“It would make no difference to the Portuguese government or TAP. The Portuguese government is realising that in the near future it will be forced to sell TAP, perhaps to Iberia,” said the head of the Irish carrier, who has repeatedly criticised state aid to the Portuguese airline.
Regarding the 18 slots that TAP had to give up at Lisbon airport – an obligation imposed by the European Commission as part of the restructuring plan that is underway – and which have passed to easyJet, Ryanair’s low-cost competitor, O’Leary said that “Tap does not mind competing with easyJet because both charge high fares.”
“We are not going to grow in Lisbon in the next two years because there are no slots,” he added.
The Ryanair leader also criticised the argument that Lisbon airport is operating at its maximum capacity, with around 20 million passengers handled annually, characterising it as a “joke”.
However, “if that’s the case,” he said, “open [the airport of] Montijo.” “With Montijo open, Lisbon would grow to 30 million passengers in five years,” he said.
For the current year, Ryanair forecasts point to 165 million passengers if the situation due to the war does not worsen, representing a 15% increase from the period before the pandemic.
Michael O’Leary referred to the “robust recovery this summer”, justifying it with the decision not to lay off workers during the pandemic, having instead negotiated with the unions pay cuts until 2024, which, he explained, left the Irish company prepared for the upturn, unlike other airlines that made redundancies.
Asked about inflation and the loss of consumer purchasing power, he said he believed Ryanair would absorb passengers from other airlines because it practises lower prices.
“Until the cost of living and energy prices stabilise, I think people will be nervous, but I believe there will be a transfer of passengers from other airlines to Ryanair,” he said, stressing that “passengers will always have money to travel” on his company.