Ryanair expects to fly more passengers this autumn than it did in the summer, upping its target for the following three months as a result of a “dramatic rebound in traffic and volumes” that might push it over pre-pandemic levels next year.
The short-haul airline, Europe’s largest carrier, revealed on Tuesday that it will fly approximately 10.5 million passengers every month through November, which is almost 5% more than the target declared a month ago.
Michael O’Leary, the airline’s CEO, predicted that passenger numbers would exceed pre-pandemic levels next summer, with the company returning to near-normal flying capacity in October.
O’Leary announced an additional 14 winter flights from London, including seven from Stansted, six from Luton, and a Malaga trip from Gatwick, as well as more than 500 new positions for pilots, cabin crew, and engineers at Ryanair’s London airports.
“We believe we are driving the recovery, not only in the UK, but throughout Europe… We are seeing tremendous growth potential, and only new aircraft deliveries will allow us to capitalize on this expansion.
“If we get near to 11 million in October, you’ll be at 90 percent of pre-Covid. As long as no negative Covid development occurs, such as the emergence of a vaccine-resistant variety, we believe we will be back to pre-Covid levels by November-February, and by next summer, we will be far ahead of pre-Covid volumes.”
In July, the airline announced that it would fly 100 million passengers in the fiscal year ending March 2022, despite continuing to forecast losses, as bookings increased and travel restrictions eased following vaccination programs across Europe.
It has stated that it will need to hire 2,000 pilots over the next three years to rebuild following the pandemic, and it has begun to take delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max aircraft, which O’Leary has dubbed a “gamechanger” due to its improved fuel economy and cost per seat.
The 737 Max was certified to fly again in January by UK and EU regulators, ending a 22-month ban imposed after it was involved in two tragic accidents. O’Leary stated that no passengers had had issues during the model’s first four months of operation, with 12 of the 210 aircraft ordered now delivered. “It’s critical that Max goes through the next 12-18 months incident-free,” he said.
He went on to say, “The whole safety issue has been committed to oblivion, it’s a terrific aircraft — any jet that offers you 4% more seats and consumes 16% less fuel is my favorite airplane.”
O’Leary stated that the airline was now well-positioned following the epidemic, whilst competitors, particularly European carriers such as Alitalia, were kept afloat by state subsidies.
“If European governments are willing to bail out their legacy airlines by diverting cash away from schools and hospitals, it’s hardly surprising there haven’t been more failures,” he said.
However, he said that the bailouts had prevented them from reforming and cutting costs: “We’ve bargained with Boeing, accepted salary cutbacks with staff… We’ll have a reduced cost base, be able to offer lower tickets, and recover faster.”
Despite O’Leary’s upbeat outlook, Ryanair’s share price fell about 3% on Tuesday, mirroring dips for other carriers such as Wizz Air and British Airways owner IAG.
O’Leary chastised the UK government for its handling of foreign travel during the pandemic and asked it to lift all limitations on double-vaccinated people entering and exiting Europe. He claimed that the traffic signal system had “created uncertainty and eroded confidence,” adding, “You should do rid of it because it’s bogus, especially for intra-European travel.” Given the high prevalence of immunizations, there should be no restrictions if you are double vaccinated.”
He claimed that “Brexit strains” were beginning to disrupt sections of Ryanair’s operations, adding sarcastically, “All the top political personalities here who declared the money would come back from the EU and there would be no impediments to trade have been perfectly vindicated.”
“Supply chains have gone down, there aren’t enough fucking drivers, no one wants to pick the fruit – and Michael Gove is bopping away at some rave in Aberdeen,” he continued.
“I’m sorry to say we told you so, but we did.”