Ryanair warns of ‘significant’ air traffic control delays this summer

Ryanair has warned of “significant” disruption to air traffic control across Europe this summer, highlighting it as “a major challenge”.

Central and Eastern European airspace is congested because of the war in Ukraine, but Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary insists air traffic control (ATC) strikes pose the greatest threat of disruption.

Speaking as Ryanair reported results for the three months to December, O’Leary warned of this spring and summer: “We expect significant air traffic control disruption.

“The big issue is the impact of strikes. French air traffic control strikes started on January 19 this year. ATC strikes will be a major challenge in the summer and cause a lot of delays.

“Each strike day costs us 18,000-20,000 passengers because we have to cancel flights.”

O’Leary noted: “There is a simple solution which is to protect overflights during ATC strikes, which is what they already do in Greece and Italy.”

But he said: “In France they protect domestic flights by minimum service agreements [during strikes]. All the cancellations are of overflights, when these should be protected. Let’s separate the upper airspace.”

O’Leary said: “We’re pushing this with Airlines for Europe, but the European Union is absolutely useless.”

The impact of any strikes will be heightened by airspace closures. O’Leary noted: “Most of Southern Poland is closed off for NATO exercises. There is real pressure on Germany and North Italy [because of airspace closures]. We’ll have a real problem if French air traffic control strike.”

Wizz Air also warned of air traffic control delays this summer.

Jozsef Varadi, Wizz Air chief executive, warned last week of “turbulence in air traffic control”, saying “The whole system is understaffed and dealing with hugely increased complexity due to the partial closure of airspace and an increase in military use of airspace.

“Air traffic control is going to be the trickiest constituent going into the summer.”

Ryanair reported a “very strong” quarter for the three months to December, with a net profit of €211 million and fares up 14% on pre-Covid levels.

O’Leary said: “We’re seeing very strong market-share gains. Everything is set far for a strong Easter and summer. How strong, we don’t know. But we can reasonably expect a second summer of materially higher fares.”

He added: “We see no market that is weak, and prices are stronger.”

But he warned: “This won’t continue. That is the nature of this industry. It looks worryingly strong into May and June.”

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