Ryanair Prepares For Summer Capacity Hike

The ULCC is gearing up to operate more capacity this summer than before the pandemic but admitted that price cuts would be needed to stimulate demand.

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Ryanair intends to increase this summer’s capacity to 114% of 2019 levels as it prepares for “a very strong bounce back” in traffic.

Speaking following the publication of the Irish carrier’s third-quarter (Q3) financial results, group CEO Michael O’Leary said recent bookings have improved following the easing of travel restrictions and he expects demand to pick up further as the summer season approaches.

However, he cautioned that the booking curve remains very late and close-in, and “significant price stimulation at lower prices” would be needed in the three months to the end of March to recover load factors.

O’Leary also stressed that the airline’s capacity forecast is hugely dependant on there being no new COVID-19 variants or other “unwelcome developments.”

Ryanair’s bookings and yields in December and January were “badly damaged” by omicron travel restrictions, he added, with its average fare just €25 ($28)—down by 24% on the same quarter pre-COVID.

As a result, December traffic slowed to about 9.5 million passengers and January traffic will be between 6 and 7 million. The airline had hoped to carry 11 million passengers in December and 10 million in January.

However, O’Leary said Ryanair’s full-year traffic forecast for the year to March 31, 2022, remains unchanged at “just under” 100 million passengers.

Looking ahead, he added that the group’s ongoing fleet expansion has given it the confidence to raise growth forecasts over the next five years. Ryanair has already taken delivery of 41 Boeing 737-8200s and expects to receive a further 24 before the summer season.

“Based on our 210 order book and available fleet capacity, the Ryanair Group plan to accelerate traffic growth over the next five years,” O’Leary said. “From a pre-COVID annual traffic of 149 million, we now expect to grow by 50% to over 225 million guests per annum by FY2026.”

Ryanair has launched or announced 720 new routes since last April, the carrier said, alongside the opening of 15 new bases. However, the airline on Jan. 7 confirmed the closure of its five-aircraft base at Frankfurt (FRA) at the end of March 2022, citing a lack of incentives.

Overall, Ryanair reported a net loss of €96 million in the three months to Dec. 31, 2021, compared with a loss of €321 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Revenues for Q3 were €1.47 billion—up from €340 million 12 months ago.