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Ryanair to invest a record $1bln in major Italian expansion

Ryanair to invest a record $1bln in major Italian expansion

Ryanair will buy 10 new planes and open 44 new routes in Italy next year with a record one billion dollar investment, generating three million new passengers, the budget airline announced in Rome on Wednesday.

"Ryanair is pleased to be the first airline to announce this record 1 billion dollar investment in new aircraft, new routes, new traffic and job growth in Italy in 2017," chief executive officer Michael O'Leary told a media conference with transport minister Graziano Delrio.

"By opening over 40 new routes and by investing over 1 billion dollars in new aircraft and new jobs in Italy in 2017, Ryanair expects to deliver record traffic growth, up from 32 million in 2016, to over 35 million in 2017," O'Leary said.

Ryanair's growth plan will generate 2,250 jobs at Italian airports, O'Leary stated, presenting the plan with Delrio and the head of Italy's civil aviation authority ENAC, Vito Riggio.

The investment owed to a freeze on a municipal tax and changes to Italian airport guidelines allowing Italy's regional airports "to compete on a level playing field with airports in Rome and Milan," O'Leary said, praising the government for these initiatives.

To celebrate "this record Italian growth", Ryanair is selling 100,000 seats from just eight euros until midnight on Thursday for travel in October and November, he said.

If plans to privatise Alghero airport on the northwest coast of Sardinia are successful, the company could reopen there by November, O'Leary stated.

Ryanair flights to Pescara will go back on sale this week, after a deal with the airline that saved the airport from a previously announced closure, said O'Leary.

Pescara-Krakow and Pescara-Copenhagen are among the new routes for next summer, as well as Bari-Liverpool, Rome-Lourdes, Malpensa-Gran Canaria, Bergamo-Edinburgh and Palermo-Bucharest, Ryanair said.

Ryanair's Italian expansion was welcomed by Delrio and by Riggio.

"We welcome the 2017 industrial plan of Ryanair setting up more flights, increasing opportunities for tourism in Italy and especially new job opportunities," Delrio said.