Ryanair says 1,000 of 5,000 new jobs could be in Republic

Michael O’Leary warns of need to urgently implement an aviation recovery plan

Ryanair on Thursday raised its long-term traffic forecast and said it now expected to fly 225 million passengers a year by 2026. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty

Ryanair on Thursday raised its long-term traffic forecast and said it now expected to fly 225 million passengers a year by 2026. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty

 

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary hopes that up to 1,000 of the recently announced 5,000 jobs planned by the airline over the next five years could be based in the Republic.

However, he warned that this would only be likely if the State were to take immediate action to introduce an aviation recovery plan.

Speaking to The Irish Times following the carrier’s agm in Dublin, Mr O’Leary indicated that 40 of the airline’s new 737 Max aircraft may also end up located here if sufficient steps were taken to boost the sector.

Mr O’Leary said a recovery plan was needed, not just for airlines but also for the tourism sector as a whole. He said that with long-haul travel expected to make a slow recovery, the State was heavily reliant on drawing in visitors from Britain and mainland Europe.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan “has done nothing to get aviation moving again over the past 18 months”, Mr O’Leary said, as he called on the Government to do more to support the travel and tourism sectors and gain from a European-wide rebound.

“Eamon Ryan needs to come out with an aviation policy that keeps low-cost air access to and from Ireland at the centre of things because tourism is our largest industry, and erecting windmills and building more bus lanes isn’t,” he said.

Mr O’Leary claimed the Department of Finance was broadly supportive of the introduction of an aviation recovery plan but that Mr Ryan’s department continued to drag its heels on the issue. He was speaking after the airline raised its long-term traffic forecast,

“I would be reasonably hopeful that there will be some progress on a recovery plan but it will probably be delivered by the Department of Finance, rather than Transport,” he said.

“The Department [of Transport] seems to be incapable of making a decision,” Mr O’Leary added.

Reducing charges

He warned that a failure to implement a recovery plan and to aid Cork and Dublin airports in reducing charges to lure airlines back would lead to aircraft being relocated away from the State to other jurisdictions where demand was high.

The Irish carrier intends to open 10 new bases across Europe and take up slot opportunities vacated by competitor airlines.

Ryanair has a deal with Shannon Airport on incentives but similar arrangements with Cork and Dublin airports last only until next June. Mr O’Leary said this needed to be extended until October to coincide with the end of the aviation sector’s summer season.

He warned this was critical as fewer Irish-based people would want to holiday at home and there would still be low levels of visitors from North America.

“If it gets extended there will be a strong recovery with a return of European inbound traffic into Ireland,” said Mr O’Leary.

He said Dublin was “the big hole in Irish tourism”, with staycationers preferring the west and little in the way of international travel to the capital.

“Dublin has been empty all summer long, and we’re not going to get the long-haul traffic back quickly so we need to be doing all we can to get British and European visitors here,” he added.

Boeing talks

Mr O’Leary also said he had no intention of returning to talks with Boeing over a proposed multibillion euro deal to buy 737 Max 10 jets. The airline walked away from discussions last week, saying prices were too high.

“I think Boeing will revisit their position. If they don’t, then we’ll happily wait it out because one good thing about the airline industry is that there is always a crisis coming in four of five years, as we’ve seen with the Gulf War, 9/11 and now the pandemic. We have the discipline to wait for prices to decline.”

Ryanair now expects to fly 225 million passengers a year by 2026, up from 200 million previously, and has restored most of its routes in Europe.

The airline earlier this week announced a €50 million investment in a new training centre in Dublin with plans to train 5,000 new pilots, cabin crew, engineers and ground operations staff.

Mr O’Leary said that even though the Republic generated less than 8 per cent of the carrier’s revenues, it was still an important market to the company with the location of the new centre.