And then there were two

'Cutting off ones nose to spite ones face'.

Founded in the medieval practice of women disfiguring themselves to protect their virginity, the phrase has passed into common parlance and is associated with a needless self-destructive over-reaction to a problem.

We've all done it at some time in our lives, usually at a miniscule level, and ultimately not causing permanent damage. Going hungry and refusing to touch your food because Mum put a single floret of cauliflower on it; telling your mates you aren't going tonight out because your Dad wouldn't let you borrow the car; or, leaving your shopping trolley laden with a half-hours careful shelf picking just because there are a couple of people at the tills in front of you.

We've all done it! But now someone, a certain Michael O'Leary (Chief Executive of Ryanair), has gone and overshadowed all our 'nose cutting' efforts by nearly decapitating himself in his strop to get his own way. Let me explain.

There are currently three ways to get directly from England to Galicia through the air (although one is via an hours drive down an Asturian motorway). Easyjet fly a daily service from Stansted to Asturias Airport (a 95km drive west to the Galician border) and this is the ideal airport for the provinces of Lugo and Ourense. Vueling (a Spanish budget airline) fly daily from Heathrow to A Coruña airport on the north-west coast, perfect for visiting the province of A Coruña. And, Ryanair have the route from Stansted to Santiago de Compostela, the most popular route and the one which services visitors to the pilgrimage capital and surrounding areas including Pontevedra and the spectacular west coast.

I'm not a fan of either Easyjet or Ryanair, and I've never had the pleasure of Vuelings budget hospitality, but I do feel that Easyjet have a softer edge against Ryanairs military style cattle herding operation. Ryanair seem to deliberately court controversy, be it; charging to use the toilets, suggesting people stand on flights, or refusing to pay compensation to people stranded by the Icelandic volcano with the unpronouncable name. All these airlines do serve a great purpose of getting us to where we want to be, for a bargain price, and with as little fuss as possible. So long as your expectations are low then they are likely to be met. None of these airlines are ever likely to have a fan club!

Three to two

Last week Ryanair announced the cancellation of their Santiago route from the 31st December 2010, in one move cutting off the south-west of Galicia to direct flights from the UK. Ryanair did have flights planned for 2011 and had taken bookings but these have now been cancelled and travellers refunded, leaving their clients and the Galician government fuming. What is the reason for this axe-wielding?

Ryanair have fallen out with the Galician government, accusing them of not promoting the area for tourism, which reading between the lines means that the Xunta have not given Ryanair money to advertise their services to Galicia. There could be several repercussions from this petulant Ryanair decision;

  • Tourism to Santiago de Compostela and the south-west of Galicia will reduce by the 700 visitors a week that Ryanair will no longer deliver to the pilgrimage capital.
  • Easyjet or Vueling will step into the void and start offering a service to Santiago de Compostela.
  • The Xunta will acquiesce to Ryanairs' demands and stump up for a 'Come to Galicia with Ryanair' advertising campaign.

Only time will tell which of these three will be the outcome, but I can't see Santiago de Compostela being without a low-cost service from the UK for long, especially given its popularity. It isn't a disaster for us as we, and our future guests, use the closer Asturias airport. Ideally Easyjet will decide to open up a route in from the north of England and we'll then have the decision as to whether to take a long drive down the A1, or on the more pleasant (but tolled) roads in Galicia from Santiago to Lugo via Betanzos.

Ryanair have certainly tarnished their image with clients once again, but as we've seen from similar posturing in the past, they really don't care. Hopefully the loser in all this will be petulant Ryanair, and not Galicia.

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