BUDGET airline Ryanair will cease operations from Bournemouth Airport for three months this winter.

The carrier is to temporarily suspend Bournemouth flights during November, December and January, blaming the government’s air passenger duty tax for their decision.

The company insists the decision to move to a seasonal nine-month base operation is not a long-term decision.

It says following a review of its operations next summer, they may return to a full 12-month base operation at the airport.

Airport bosses called the news “disappointing.”

The announcement follows weeks of uncertainty about their winter schedules with passengers unable to book flights from Bournemouth beyond October 31.

Until now, the airline would only say they did not comment on rumour or speculation but yesterday, they confirmed their plans for the next few months.

The Echo understands the eight spring timetable routes include weekly flights to Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, twice-weekly flights to Malaga, Faro, Tenerife and Girona and three-times a week to Alicante.

The news follows the withdrawal of Bmibaby from the Jersey route at the end of June, just three months after its launch, blaming disappointing sales.

Some of the operators continuing to fly from Bournemouth include Palmair, Thomson and Flybe with Thomas Cook also announcing a return to the airport from next summer.

The airport has recently undergone a massive £45million transformation programme with plans for a new arrivals hall.

Bournemouth Airport managing director Rob Goldsmith said: “We are currently experiencing the longest downturn in the UK aviation industry since the war.

“Demand for air travel has been adversely affected this year by a wide range of factors including the sluggish economy recovery, the forthcoming austerity measures, the volcanic ash cloud, the general election, the Euro/Pound exchange rate and increased aviation taxation.

“Leisure trips have been particularly badly affected and with so much economic gloom and uncertainty, people have been cutting back on overseas short breaks or second and third holidays.

“We are obviously disappointed by this decision but fully appreciate how tough it is in the ongoing economic climate for low-cost airlines to operate profitably, especially in the winter months.

“However we remain confident that this is a short-term set-back and that demand in our catchment area will soon pick up and we look forward to retaining our long-term partnership with Ryanair in the future.” Stephen McNamara, head of communications at Ryanair, said: “We very much regret temporarily ceasing our operations at Bournemouth Airport during November, December and January.

“However, the UK government’s £11 tourist tax makes it economically unviable for Ryanair to operate our low fares flights from Bournemouth during this period.

“Ryanair is the only airline capable of retaining year round international tourism and business links for Bournemouth.

“However, these require low access costs, particularly through the low yielding winter months and in the absence of a commitment from the UK, Ryanair has no alternative but to temporarily cease these routes and develop its business elsewhere.”

Mr McNamara added the temporary closure had only been possible with the support of the staff, which consists of around 50 people at Bournemouth. He said in most cases the three-month shut down would be covered by their holiday and unpaid leave with some staff deployed on operations elsewhere.