Monday 23 October 2017

'Too soon' for Ryanair to make decisions about UK presence post-Brexit

Ryanair's new CFO Neil Sorahan
Ryanair's new CFO Neil Sorahan
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

It's still 'too soon' for Ryanair to make any decisions about its presence in the UK following last June's Brexit vote, according to the airline's chief financial officer, Neil Sorahan.

But he said that despite announcing an expansion at Stansted Airport last week, Ryanair could reduce feed at some smaller airports in the UK or not grow as quickly there as it might otherwise have done.

Speaking at the Global Airfinance conference in Dublin, Mr Sorahan said that despite UK prime minister Theresa May's speech this week outlying a 'hard' Brexit, there's still no clarity on what that will really mean.

"We still don't necessarily know what that's going to mean," he said. "She laid out a plan that will see her get lots of really good things and leaving all the bad things behind. I can't see that happening."

"It is an issue," Mr Sorahan said of Brexit. "But it's an issue that we will be more than able to handle."

"We're looking at lots of different scenarios internally," he added. "It's too soon to start doing anything at this stage. Article 50 hasn't been triggered."

He said it would be interesting to see what kind of stance European politicians take this year in light of upcoming elections in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Mr Sorahan said Ryanair's options for dealing with the impact of Brexit include possibly obtaining a UK air operator's certificate.

He also said that Ryanair has "absolutely no intention" of deferring any of its aircraft orders. The airline currently has a fleet of more than 360 jets and will have received about 50 in the financial year that ends in March, and will take delivery of another 50 in the following financial year.

Ryanair currently has a 15pc market share in Europe, and Mr Sorahan said that would grow to 22pc or 23pc over the next few years.

"We see phenomenal opportunities for us to continue to grow," he said. "We have some modest ambitions to grow to about 200 million customers a year by March 2024."

Ryanair will have 585 aircraft in its fleet at that stage.

"We're short aircraft at the moment," he added.

Mr Sorahan also confirmed that Ryanair's and Norwegian Air Shuttle's technology teams are currently working out how the two carriers can implement a planned interlining agreement that would see passengers be able to transfer between the carriers.

Also speaking at the conference, Angus Kelly, the chief executive of the world's biggest aircraft lessor, AerCap, said that Ireland could benefit from Brexit.

"There is potential for Ireland to do well out it," but he added that personal tax rates remain too high.

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