Ryanair’s ambitions losing momentum

Airline must learn to cope with growing pains if it wants to be world’s biggest

Ryanair  expects to fly 129 million people in its current financial year, down from its original projection of 131 million. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Ryanair expects to fly 129 million people in its current financial year, down from its original projection of 131 million. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

 

Earlier this year, Ryanair once again confirmed its plans to grow its fleet to 520 aircraft by 2024 and passenger numbers to 180 million, which would conceivably make it the world’s biggest airline.

It is too soon to say that the events of the last two weeks have thrown a question mark over these ambitions, but there is no question that it has lost momentum. On Wednesday, it announced it would fly 25 fewer aircraft than planned this winter with resulting cancellations up to March next year that will affect about 400,000 passengers.

It now expects to fly 129 million people in its current financial year – which also ends in March – down from its original projection of 131 million. The figure will be 7.5 per cent up on its 2017 financial year instead of closer to 10 per cent.

Summer fleet

Ryanair is also reining in the expansion of 2018’s summer fleet to 435 craft from an original target of 445. Passenger numbers in the 12 months ended March 31st, 2019, will be 138 million in stead of a hoped-for 142 million, an expansion rate of 7 per cent.

While that growth is not to sneezed at and may not upset its longer-term target, it still shows that, as the airline expands, it is going to hit problems or constraints. The question for Ryanair is how it deals with those challenges. Recent experience shows that it still has a few things to learn about coping with them on the one hand and communicating with customers on the other.

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