European low-cost carrier Ryanair has reported a 9% jump in passenger numbers for December 2023. However, despite the rise, the airline has cautioned that the removal of its flights from online travel agents (OTAs) will have a negative impact on load factors, softening yields in the short term.
The budget airline group announced that traffic rose to 12.54 million passengers in December 2023, up from 11.52 million passengers in the same month the previous year. Meanwhile, the airline’s network load factor, which gauges how full the company’s planes are, fell by a single percentage point to 91% in December 2023, down from 92% recorded in December 2022.
However, when analyzed on a rolling 12-month basis, passenger numbers rose 13% to 181.8 million and the load factor increased to 94% from 92%. The company claims to have operated more than 72,500 flights during December 2023, although over 900 of its flights had to be canceled for security reasons due to the conflict in Israel/Gaza.
In its latest performance statement, Ryanair also highlighted that OTAs such as Booking.com, Kiwi, and Kayak all removed the carrier’s flights from sale on their website booking engines without warning during early December 2023.
According to Ryanair, this removal may have been a result of pressure from various consumer protection agencies or, alternatively a response to a recent Irish High Court ruling which granted Ryanair a permanent injunction against the travel industry ‘screen scraper’ company Flightbox from unlawfully scraping Ryanair website content for OTAs.
Ryanair added that the move could also be a reaction to its introduction of ‘Know Your Passenger’ customer initiatives such as new verification levels. However, the airline does not expect the removal to materially affect its FY24 traffic or profit after tax guidance.
In a statement, the airline declared: “Ryanair will respond to this welcome removal of our flights from OTA Pirate websites, by lowering fares where necessary to encourage all passengers to book directly on Ryanair.com where they are guaranteed to always get the lowest airfares without OTA pirate overcharges, fake contact info, or other pricing/refund scams.”
The statement added: “In the meantime, Ryanair continues to make its fares available to honest and transparent OTAs such as Google Flights, who do not add hidden markups to Ryanair prices and who direct passengers to make their bookings directly on the Ryanair.com website.”