Ryanair is planning to operate more flights this summer than pre-pandemic, speeding up deliveries of new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
However, the airline says recovery is still fragile, citing the war in Ukraine, rising cost pressures and the possibility for more COVID shocks in winter 2022/23.
The Irish low-cost carrier plans to operate 115% of its summer 2019 capacity in 2022, it announced on May 16, 2022, when it published annual financial results.
“As we emerge out of COVID, the growth opportunities have never been stronger,” chief executive Michael O’Leary commented. Ryanair said it had gained market share in big markets such as Italy, Spain, Ireland, Poland and Hungary.
“There is a strong recovery ongoing but it’s still fragile as we try to build up forward bookings,” O’Leary said. Ryanair is using a ‘load active yield passive’ strategy, where it lowers fares to try and fill its planes. It is aiming for load factors of over 90% in summer 2022, but also said fares could be above pre-COVID levels for the July-September quarter.
Ryanair said it planned to operate over 70 new Boeing 737-8200 MAX aircraft, which it dubs the “Gamechanger”, in summer 2022. It had initially planned to have 65 of the aircraft in its fleet.
“Boeing were keen for us to take more aircraft this summer and we were happy to do so,” chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said. Ryanair is also in talks over bringing forward more deliveries for next summer, beyond the further 55 that were due to arrive by then.
After a public spat with Boeing over new orders in 2021, O’Leary said Ryanair could meet its target to grow passenger numbers to 225 million by 2026 without needing to order any new aircraft. For the period from 2026 to 2030, Ryanair is currently looking at second-hand A320 and B737s, O’Leary said.
Asked about staffing shortages that have forced other airlines in Europe to cancel flights, Sorahan said Ryanair had kept pilots current during the crisis and had been able to hire cabin crew sooner than rivals. He said he expected security staffing issues at airports such as Dublin and Manchester that have led to big lines to be resolved for the peak summer period, but said he was concerned that some air traffic control areas remained understaffed.
For its financial year to March 31, 2022, Ryanair reported a net loss of €355 million ($370 million), lower than the loss of €1.015 billion ($1.06 billion) for the previous year. The airline had predicted a loss of €350-450 million. Its passenger numbers rose to 97.1 million people and its load factor improved to 82% for the financial year.
Ryanair said while it expected a strong traffic recovery this year, it was unable to provide financial guidance.
“We think there’s a prospect of modest profitability over the next 12 months. If everything goes right, it could be better,” O’Leary said. “If there’s adverse news flows on COVID into next winter, recession and or Ukraine, we’ll still be profitable but the profits will be significantly behind where they were pre-COVID.”