Tourist tax prompts Ryanair to cut UK winter flight capacity by 16%

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DUBLIN – Irish low-budget airline Ryanair Holdings PLC said Tuesday it will cut its U.K. winter flight capacity by 16% because of the U.K.’s “tourist tax,” but won’t cut winter flights at Edinburgh and Leeds-Bradford airports.

Winter capacity at London’s Stansted Airport will be cut by 17% from November. Ryanair will base 22 aircraft in Stansted this winter from 24 a year ago with a loss of up to 1.5 million passengers there between November and March 2011.

Ryanair said it will switch these London-based aircraft to other European bases “where governments have scrapped tourist taxes and reduced passenger charges, in some case to zero, in order to grow tourism and traffic.”

“Independent capacity analysis shows that growth has returned to the Belgian, Dutch and Spanish markets after their governments scrapped tourist taxes and/or reduced airport charges,” Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said.