Ryanair hopes to fly 70% of 2019 summer traffic in peak season

O’Leary optimistic airline will get close to breakeven in coming financial year

Ryanair hopes to cut Covid-19 losses this year as peak season passenger numbers reach 70 per cent of 2019 levels, according to chief executive Michael O'Leary.

He told British politicians on Wednesday that industry analysts expect virus-related travel restrictions will leave Ryanair Holdings with an €850 million loss for its current financial year, which ends on March 31st.

However, Mr O’Leary added that he hoped Ryanair would operate at close to breakeven in the 12 months ending March 31st, 2022.

He predicted that the airline could this summer fly up to 70 per cent of the passengers it carried in 2019, if governments exempt from quarantine travellers who have been tested or vaccinated.


“We would be hopeful that we could fly maybe 60, 70 per cent of our normal traffic volumes during the peak summer months, June, July, August and September. That’s about as optimistic as it’s going to get,” he said.

Ryanair flew close to 149 million people in the 12 months to March 31st last year, 58 million of them in 2019’s four peak months, June, July, August and September.

Test costs

Mr O’Leary also told the British parliament’s transport committee that the cost of Covid-19 PCR tests would fall from its current level of about €100 by the summer.

Most countries demand a negative PCR Covid test result as a condition of entry.

It has emerged meanwhile that the European Union is still months away from issuing Covid-19 immunity certificates, increasing the risk of another lost tourism season for the bloc’s aviation and hospitality industries.

Technical work on a digital platform to authenticate travellers’ health status could take three to four months, according to a briefing note circulated to national delegations in Brussels on Tuesday.

Beyond that, there are legal hurdles, the challenge of agreeing the scope of the programme and resolving thorny medical questions.

The system being developed by the European Commission would confirm holders have recently tested negative, been fully vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus – and are thus presumed to be immune.

But EU member states are at loggerheads over the use of the “status certificates”, with tourism-dependent economies such as Greece pushing for rapid introduction to allow for the return of travel and other activities such as dining out, at least for a segment of the population.

Separately, Ryanair said it had joined EU efforts to develop sustainable fuel for air travel, part of its industry’s bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel initiative

The Irish airline group, Europe’s largest, said on Wednesday that it had joined the EU’s Fuelling Flight Initiative.

The initiative makes recommendations on EU policies that will support the use of sustainable aviation fuel.

It brings together airlines, research organisations and environmentalists in an effort to reach consensus on the policies needed to move to carbon-neutral flying, according to the airline.

Ryanair's director of sustainability, Tom Fowler, said a transparent regulatory framework for sustainable aviation fuels could support and equip airlines in their fight against climate change.

Pete Harrison, executive director of the European Climate Foundation, welcomed Ryanair to the initiative.

"Europe must ensure that future policies only promote the most sustainable fuels for reducing the climate impact of aviation, and the EU needs to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past," he added.

Before Covid-19 restrictions grounded airlines last year, aviation’s climate impact was coming under increasing scrutiny.

Air travel is responsible for about 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. – Additional reporting: Bloomberg/ Reuters

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas