Covid-19 travel bans slashed Ryanair passenger numbers by 81 per cent to 27.5 million in the 12 months ended March 31st, its latest financial year.
Ryanair shares were down 1.72 per cent at €16.59 in Dublin shortly after 9am on Tuesday, following the news.
The Irish airline said on Tuesday that it carried 500,000 passengers in March, 91 per cent fewer than the 5.5 million people that flew with it in the same month last year.
Its rolling annual total to March 31st was 27.5 million, 81 per cent less than the 148.6 million passengers it carried during the previous 12 months.
The airline operated 5 per cent of its normal schedule in March. Last month’s load factor, that is the proportion of seats that it sold on its aircraft, was 77 per cent
March 31st marked the end of Ryanair’s 2021 financial year. The 27.5 million total for the 12-month period is in line with the airline’s latest prediction.
In early January, Ryanair warned that newly announced Covid lockdowns in the Republic, UK and parts of Europe would leave full-year 2021 passenger numbers at between 26 million and 30 million.
It had previously hoped to fly “below 35 million” passengers in the 12 months to March 31st.
However, Ryanair added that it did not expect the further fall in passenger numbers to materially affect losses for 2021, as many of the flights it was operating were loss-making.
The group also cautioned that it would carry as few as 500,000 passengers in February and March.
Ryanair’s 2021 financial year coincided with the full impact of Covid-19 on European air travel. Lockdowns imposed by countries in March 2020 in response to the pandemic’s first wave grounded airlines up to July, when most began limited operations.
Further restrictions introduced in Europe around Christmas and New Year in response to the arrival of new more infectious virus strains dealt a blow to hopes that air travel would begin recovering early this year.
However, Ryanair Holdings chief executive Michael O'Leary said two weeks ago that the airline hoped to operate around 2,300 flights a week, about 80 per cent of normal capacity, this summer.
Mr O’Leary added that the airline had the resources to get through another lost summer of travel, but did not believe this would be necessary.
The airline is due to receive 16 Boeing 737 Max aircraft from the US manufacturer ahead of this year’s holiday season.