Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has called on the Irish Government to be wary of imposing “unfair” environmental taxes on airlines.
r O’Leary said there is “huge unfairness” in environmental taxation on air travel in Europe.
Speaking at a press conference in Dublin to mark Ryanair’s 35 years in business, the airline boss said that EU countries are taxing the most efficient form of air travel, which exempting the most polluting forms.
Mr O’Leary said that Ryanair is committed to cut its emissions to net zero by 2050, but said environmental taxes should be fairer.
Speaking alongside Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Mr O’Leary said that the 2050 targets should be stronger.
“But be careful what we wish for,” he added.
“One of the problems we have with the environment, there’s a huge unfairness in environmental taxation on air travel in Europe.
“You’re taxing the most efficient form of air travel, which is the short haul point to point. You’re exempting the two most polluting forms of air travel, which is… transfer passengers are exempt from any environmental taxes and long haul is exempted.
“So the richest people flying long haul, which accounts for 55% of Europe’s emissions, pay zero.
“We are committed to being net zero by 2050. But before we get to 2023 or 2024, can we have at least some fairness? We accept everybody pay must pay an environmental tax on air travel. I don’t have any issue with that.
“But the richest people are the people who are creating most of the pollution should at least pay a fair share and not be exempt.
“What’s going on at the moment is fundamentally unfair and wrong. It’s very damaging.
We should all pay our fair share, but everybody should pay.Michael O’Leary
“If you live in the periphery of Europe in Ireland, we don’t have an alternative. You can’t take a train. You can’t cycle off the island. So we’ve got a to fly and the peripheral economies are at a real risk from taxation that’s been drummed up in Holland, in Germany and Belgium where they do have alternatives.
“We don’t in the peripheral countries and I think it’s something we call the Government to be wary of.
“We should all pay our fair share, but everybody should pay.”
Ryanair DAC’s CEO Eddie Wilson said that the airline wants to grow traffic in Ireland by 50%.
The airline is bringing in an additional 210 aircraft over the next four years.
“We’re going to grow from 165 million passengers this year to 225 million passengers and ten million of those should actually be allocated to Ireland, it has the capacity to do so,” Mr Wilson added.
“But let’s not do something silly here by raising charges when I’m able to get deals in other airports throughout Europe, where I’ve got cost certainty for the next eight or 10 years.
“If environmental taxes are coming in, in Europe, we would say to the Government that European level, let’s make sure that everybody pays the same.
“At the moment, if you fly into Amsterdam and you go on your holidays to Aruba, you don’t pay a red cent in environmental taxes. That’s not fair when you think about people from Dublin who are flying into Amsterdam to visit kids in college, etc.
I don’t like to see people being climate shamed, whether it’s farmers or whether it’s people who fly.Leo Varadkar
“If there’s going to be environmental taxes, they’ve got to be the same for everyone.”
Speaking at the event in the Merrion Hotel, Mr Varadkar said that any tax arrangement must be done “fairly and appropriately”.
He added: “The climate transition will change the industry, but people are still going to want to fly. I don’t see aviation as an enemy, but rather a partner in taking climate action.
“I don’t like to see people being climate shamed, whether it’s farmers or whether it’s people who fly.
“We are an island nation, and we need aviation to be connected to the world and climate action doesn’t change that.
“I believe there is a future for low carbon aviation. I’m really excited about what’s happening when it comes to sustainable and systematic aviation fuels.
“I know that Ryanair is playing its part with the purchase of new aircraft that burn less fuel, make less noise and carry more passengers.”
Mr O’Leary said that Ryanair’s passengers spends just over 1.5 billion euro in the Irish economy every year.
He also said that Ryanair employed 2,300 direct jobs in 2019.
A report produced by PwC found that for every employee Ryanair hires in Ireland, two full time jobs are created in the economy.
“We’re supporting almost 5,000 jobs here in the economy and the visitors we bring to Ireland, about 18,000 jobs depend on them. They are supporting 22,300 jobs here in economy,” Mr O’Leary added.
He said that while the airline had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has now “recovered strongly”.