Budget airline Ryanair has committed itself to Leeds-Bradford International Airport after it announced a three per cent increase in business in 2008.

The company’s UK marketing manager John Booty was at the Yeadon airport yesterday to review the performance of the airline’s three routes.

He said: “Last year, we managed to grow the business by three per cent here at Leeds – that’s more than 250,000 passengers to destinations like Alicante, Dublin and Girona.

“We are obviously already planning for 2009, based around those three routes.”

Mr Booty also criticised the Government’s departure tax, which he believed would affect tourism in the country.

He said: “The Government believe it can grow out of recession by taxing tourism, but it can’t. All they are going to do is put people off.

“Ryanair, along with others, is asking Gordon Brown to see sense and remove this tax because it is doing more harm than good.”

Mr Booty said an increase in business at the airport created extra jobs and helped the economy of the region.

He said: “We are talking about new possibilities for the region and in 2009 Ryanair is looking to expand its business as normal – we want the people of Yorkshire to get away from the doom and gloom, but more importantly we want to generate tourism in the area and generate as many jobs as possible.

“We sell the cities as weekend destinations – we sell the destinations for shopping, for sport, for walking, and that is what we are doing.”

Mr Booty said the Alicante and Barcelona Girona route only came into service in October, which meant the majority of the three per cent rise came from the Dublin route.

In February it was announced bmi mainline was to cease operating the four-times-a-day Heathrow service from this month. Mr Booty said he was unable to say whether Ryanair would take on the service.