Ryanair plans a speedy return of capacity this summer and rapid growth to take advantage of a stalled return by rivals as the carrier boosts its fleet with 200-plus new Boeing Max aircraft.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair group chief executive, reported plans to operate “more than 80% of our pre-Covid capacity” in the three months to September.
Speaking as Ryanair announced results for the three months to June yesterday, O’Leary said: “We’re determined to recover traffic as quickly as we can.
“People have been locked up for 18 months. They’ll want to go on a break. We expect a strong rebound in visiting friend and relatives. Business travel will return – people won’t have made sales calls for 18 months.”
He added: “I don’t believe people won’t return to the office. Employers will want people back in offices. There will be a lot more flexibility, but the idea offices will close is absurd.”
O’Leary noted: “We already opened 10 new bases this year and we’ll have more new bases this autumn, but we only just scratched the surface.
“We take delivery of 210 Boeing 737 Max aircraft over the next four years taking our fleet north of 600 aircraft. Over that time, Wizz Air will take delivery of 80 aircraft to give it a fleet of 230. So we’ll take as many new aircraft as Wizz’s entire fleet.
“We see slots becoming available at airports where previously we could not get them.”
O’Leary said: “Most of our growth will be at our larger base airports – Stansted, Bergamo, Charleroi. There will be a lot of new routes in central and eastern Europe, in Italy, Spain and Portugal.”
Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair group’s main carrier, agreed: “Airports are coming to us. Everyone is saying ‘How can we get a piece of this?’ Having a Ryanair base is the only way to growth.”
Yet O’Leary insisted: “Getting more slots and opening more bases at primary airports is just us being opportunistic. It’s not about choosing to go for more affluent passengers. It is where the opportunity is at the moment because primary airports have lost so much traffic.”
Ryanair reported a loss of €273 million for the quarter to the end of June as “Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business” and warned the outlook “continues to be challenging”.
But its results statement noted: “We are seeing strong pent up travel demand into August and September and expect this to continue . . . with pre-Covid growth planned to resume strongly in summer 2022.”