Ryanair passenger numbers shoot up in August


Budget airline Ryanair saw its passenger numbers increase by 23 per cent for August, the company revealed today.

Despite demanding £3 million from the Department of Transport (DfT) because of lost earnings caused by last month's anti-terror operation at British airports, Ryanair saw its year-on-year passenger figures grow from 3,257,009 in August 2005 to 4,002,358 last month.

While this is in line with Ryanair's rapid expansion in recent years, which saw its passenger numbers increase from 19.4 million in 2003 to 24.6 million in 2004 and 30.9 million in 2005, the airline's load factor, which represents the number of passengers as a proportion of the number of seats available, has greater significance to its case against the government.

As this remained at 91 per cent last month, unchanged from 12 months previously, claims that the disruption entailed at British airports by heightened security had a significant impact on the airline's profits could prove difficult to vindicate.

Despite these revelations, it was revealed today that Ryanair's case will go to the high court where judges will decide whether or not the DfT imposed unnecessarily stringent security measures on British airlines.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said last month that "the purpose of this claim is to encourage the DfT to restore UK airport security to the effective… norm, and to prevent similar breakdowns at UK airports during future security scares".

But the litigation he has launched specifically targets the £3 million of lost earnings Ryanair incurred during the first week of the delays, between August 10th and 16th.

Crucial to Mr O'Leary's case is his claim that the DfT's decision to enforce luggage restrictions on just outbound UK flights was "illogical". He also contends that searching "many families, elderly couples and young children" was "patently nonsensical".

The DfT has dismissed Ryanair's case as having no legal foundation. A spokesman pointed out last month that "aviation security measures are directed under the Aviation Security Act 1982 which does not have any provisions for compensation".

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