RYANAIR has announced plans to quit Blackpool International Airport.
The Irish budget airline made the shock announcement today in
response to the airport's controversial decision to charge all its passengers a 10 entry fee to the terminal from the New Year.
Ryanair bosses said they had advised against the introduction of the Airport Development Fee.
They will pull all daily routes to and from Dublin, plus its Girona (Barcelona) service, the day before the charge is introduced on January 5.
And Ryanair today called for the charge to be scrapped "while there is still time to save the airport".
Michael Crawley, Ryanair's deputy chief executive, said: "This is a black day for Blackpool International Airport.
"The management's decision, against Ryanair's advice to introduce an Airport Development Fee is an extremely regressive step.
"It inevitably involves a massive increase in the cost of travel for passengers through the airport.
"With so much choice for passengers in the locality, this increased cost is unsustainable and Ryanair is regrettably announcing the withdrawal of all its services to both Dublin and Barcelona (Girona) from the airport with effect from January 4, 2009.
The route to successful airlines and successful airports is not through increasing charges for passengers but rather the reverse, reducing fares and reducing costs at airports which in turn drive passenger traffic and boost economic activity.
With this step, the management at Blackpool Airport have severely dented the economic prospects for the region which this airport serves. We call on them to reverse this decision immediately while there is still time to save the airport."
The charge, for passengers aged 16 and over, is expected to raise 400,000 in its first year for the airport which has struggled to maintain passenger numbers.
It will mean passengers can park free for up to 15 days at the airport.
Airport bosses today said they were "confident" of bringing in another airline to replace Ryanair.
David Kershaw, chief executive at Blackpool International, said: "We are extremely disappointed to make this announcement, both the Dublin and Girona routes are extremely popular and busy all year round.
"However, based on the demonstrable success of both these routes and the ease of access and facilities here at the airport, together with our free passenger parking offer being introduced from January 5, we are confident our ongoing dialogue with alternative airlines will secure an operator in the very near future."
Blackpool Council, which still has a five per cent stake in the airport now owned by building giant Balfour Beatty, described the announcement as a "temporary setback".
Council leader Peter Callow said: "The council is confident the airport will make a very early announcement of new flights so air travellers can continue to reach their favourite destinations from Blackpool."
>> Blackpool Airport introduces 10 charge
Join Blackpool International Airport chief executive David Kershaw for an hour-long webchat this Thursday from 12 - 1pm on blackpoolgazette.co.uk