Ryanair plans massive expansion with purchase of 300 new planes
Published 25/10/2011 | 05:00
RYANAIR'S colourful boss is gearing up to double the number of passengers flying with the low-cost airline.
Michael O'Leary says he is in the market to buy up to 300 new aircraft to boost passenger numbers to between 120 million and 130 million over the next decade. This would make Ryanair one of the world's biggest airlines, swelling its fleet to more than 500 planes.
Mr O'Leary says he is in talks with Boeing -- which already supplies all of Ryanair's fleet -- but is also talking to their rivals: China's Comac and Russia's Irkut.
He wants the new planes to be delivered between 2015 and 2021. Ryanair signed a memorandum of understanding with Comac earlier this year and he insisted he would only buy the aircraft at "cheap prices".
He told the 'Financial Times' he is in "serious negotiations" with Comac and Irkut, which were both proposing to supply aircraft from 2016. And in terms of squeezing a better deal from Boeing and Airbus, Mr O'Leary hopes to benefit from the fact that his competitors could cancel some orders as economic conditions worsen.
The airline could use 50 of the new planes to fly passengers to and from destinations in Scandinavia. And he would put another 100 aircraft onto new routes in the Baltic States, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, he said.
Mr O'Leary's expansion plan would put Ryanair in a new phase, expanding its reach and the scale of its operations. If it did manage to carry 130 million passengers a year, compared to 72 million this year, it would overtake Europe's biggest airline, Lufthansa, which flew 91 million passengers last year.
The Ryanair boss believes the difficult economic conditions in Europe will increase the demand for low-cost travel and will allow the airline to rapidly expand in the years ahead.
Much of its expansion has been in Italy and Spain in recent years and it is now focussing its growth ambitions in other European locations.
Mr O'Leary also had some good news for Ryanair shareholders, saying it might be possible to pay another dividend this financial year and another one in 2014 or 2015.
The third special dividend could be scrapped, though, if Ryanair has placed its order for new aircraft by then.
Mr O'Leary, who has been running the airline for 17 years now, continues to say he will retire in two to three years even though he has been saying that for the past few years.