Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary explains the cuts
Budget airline Ryanair has announced a reduction in its services at Stansted Airport, blaming higher charges.
Ryanair will reduce the number of aircraft it runs at the airport by 40% in its winter schedule, and will cut the number of flights by 30%, it said.
But it will operate only four fewer planes than it did last winter.
The company said that Stansted was one of its most expensive bases, and added that an increase in air passenger duty tax was also a factor in its decision.
The airline operated 40 aircraft from Stansted in the summer, but said this would fall to 24 this winter.
Last winter, Ryanair also cut its Stansted fleet to 28 planes from 36 in the summer.
Stansted Airport's managing director, Stewart Wingate, said: "It is common practice for [Ryanair] to reduce frequency to various destinations during the winter season as they have done in previous years.
"However, it should be noted that Ryanair recently announced it will launch a new service to Oslo from Stansted this October."
Ryanair said it would switch the 16 aircraft it was withdrawing from Stansted to other European bases. It expects to carry 2.5 million fewer passengers between October and March as a result of the latest move.
Ryanair also confirmed it had been in talks with European safety regulators about proposals to allow passengers to stand on its flights.
In November, air passenger duty will increase from £10 to £11.
Ryanair said it had written to the prime minister, asking him to scrap "this damaging tourist tax", adding that several other European governments had done so in recent months.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said that UK traffic and tourism was collapsing, although Ryanair continued to "grow traffic rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them".
"Ryanair's 40% capacity cutback at London Stansted shows just how much Gordon Brown's £10 tourist tax and the BAA monopoly's high airport charges are damaging London and UK tourism and the British economy generally," he added.
Mr O'Leary added that Britain's airports would see 10 million fewer passengers this year.
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