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Ryanair spreads its wings into rival’s European flight path

Ryanair has declared a price war on Aer Lingus with seven new routes set to be launched from Dublin to European destinations.

The new routes, which will be unveiled tomorrow, will include the capital city’s first direct connections to Basel in Switzerland and Marrakech in Morocco, as well as bringing Ryanair into direct competition with Aer Lingus routes to Nice and Budapest. The other routes are expected to include Prague in the Czech Republic and Katowice and Szczecin in Poland. Ryanair won’t announce pricing details until tomorrow, but aviation sources said the move would bring ticket costs down across many of the destinations for Irish travelers.

The Basel route is also significant because it marks Ryanair’s first foray into the lucrative Swiss market. Meanwhile, Ryanair’s new Nice route will compete with Aer Lingus’s service, and the two Polish flights will rival offerings from east European airline Centralwings. The routes are the latest step in Ryanair’s aggressive land grab at Dublin Airport, which began in December 2005. It’s renewed efforts at the air hub come as a blow to Aer Lingus which was the only Irish airline serving the continent in any meaningful way until 2006.

Tomorrow’s Dublin announcement will be part of a wider Ryanair expansion, which is also expected to include new bases in Valencia and Alicante in Spain. A spokeswoman declined to comment on the new bases or destinations. It is expected the new routes will be in operation by Christmas. Ryanair has launched a scattering of new routes in recent years and serves 75 destinations from Dublin. Last year, it made a €1.4 billion takeover bid for Aer Lingus. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary promised blood on the carpets at Dublin Airport should it fail.

The European Commission rejected the move, and sources said Aer Lingus appeared to be the main target of Ryanair’s expansion this week into three of the national airlines more profitable routes. (independent.ie)