Ryanair (FR, Dublin International) will not reopen its seasonal Ponta Delgada base in the Azores this summer because of a hike in airport fees, the budget carrier’s group chief executive Michael O'Leary said during a press conference in Lisbon.

“Costs in Ponta Delgada grew by 9%, why would I have to reopen the base if I have other airports in Europe with lower costs?” he asked in response to a question, as quoted by local travel trade site Publituris.

He claimed that during the four years Ryanair operated at Ponta Delgada it lost money, as wintertime demand for flights to the archipelago drops drastically, and now the increase in fees applied by ANA Aeroportos de Portugal have made it unaffordable.

“I lose money in Ponta Delgada if I open a base for just seven months a year. I’ve already lost a lot of money, why would I want to reopen the base? It seems like Ponta Delgada airport is full, but it’s not, it’s empty,” he said, adding that it was not viable to keep it open only in summer as the company would be forced to lay off staff at the start of each winter.

ANA has “killed Ryanair’s base” at Ponta Delgada by raising its fees there because it has no competition, O'Leary complained. He pointed to several other European airports where rates have been falling due to inflation, but in Portugal it’s the other way around.

“This is the type of damage that ANA causes. The French airport monopoly is doing the opposite, which is in times of inflation to lower rates, but ANA increases them because it can, there’s no competition,” he said.

The carrier may also close its base at Funchal, the CEO suggested, where it keeps one aircraft in winter. There, fees rose by 6% this year. “It can also go to zero at the end of the summer, we are still not sure,” he said.

This winter, besides Ryanair just three airlines are operating at Ponta Delgada, all of them Portuguese: SATA Air Acores (SP, Ponta Delgada) with 69 weekly frequencies, Azores Airlines (S4, Ponta Delgada) with 63, and TAP Air Portugal (TP, Lisbon) with 21. Ryanair maintains just four frequencies.

Ryanair said last month that it will be reducing its operations at the Portuguese airports of Faro and Porto as a result of higher airport fees. Last year it was in talks with the Azores Regional Government over its reported intention to stop serving Ponta Delgada as well as Terceira. According to the ch-aviation fleets module, its current bases in Portugal are at Faro, Funchal, Lisbon, and Porto.