The world’s biggest budget airline carried 9.5 million passengers in December compared to an expected figure of 11 million
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said he remains “wary and cautious” about the potential for new Covid variants and pandemic-related restrictions to derail what’s expected to be a “very strong bounce back” in travel this summer.
The carrier will be operating about 115pc of its 2019 capacity this summer. The increase comes as the carrier sees continuing deliveries of Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
Since last year, the group has seen 41 of the new jets join it fleet, with more deliveries taking its Max fleet to 65 in time for the coming summer. Some of those jets have gone to Ryanair subsidiaries Malta Air and Buzz. Lauda Air currently operates an Airbus fleet, but will eventually transition to a Boeing fleet. Ryanair expects to have about 630 aircraft within the next five years.
The airline pulled the plug last year on talks with Boeing about a potential new aircraft order after the two sides failed to agree on pricing. Ryanair is one of Boeing’s biggest customers.
“We’re not in talks at the moment with Boeing on new aircraft orders,” said Mr O’Leary. “We’ve been very disappointed with the response of Boeing. We think Boeing are missing a trick. They need to be much more aggressive on the sales front and they need to be doing a deal with Ryanair.”
Mr O’Leary was speaking as Ryanair posted a €96m loss for the three months to the end of December – its third financial quarter. It compared to a €321m loss in the third quarter of the previous financial year.
Its revenue hit €1.47bn in the third quarter, which was up 136pc year-on-year.
The airline saw a strong recovery in its load factors – the percentage of available seats sold – from September to November. However, the emergence of the Omicron variant significantly impacted demand in December – traditionally a busy time for the carrier as people fly home for Christmas.
It carried 9.5 million passengers in December compared to the 11 million it had expected.
The aftermath of the Omicron scare has lingered. Ryanair slashed its January capacity by a third, and expects to have carried between six and seven million passengers in January, below the 10.5 million it had originally anticipated.
However, its passenger numbers in the third quarter, at 31.1 million, were still up 286pc year-on-year and Ryanair still expects to carry 225 million passengers in the year to the end of March 2026.
In its financial year that ended in March 2019, Ryanair carried 149 million passengers.
Neil Sorahan, Ryanair’s chief financial officer, said that its visibility on bookings towards Easter and summer remains limited, but that since Ireland and the UK relaxed Covid restrictions, there has been an improvement.
“We would be hopeful that, as other governments start to roll-off their travel restrictions, we will see an improvement in that,” he said.
“People are starting to take the decisions more further out than close in, so they are starting to look at Easter, starting to look into the summer and they are booking into those periods,” he added.
The company had almost €3bn in cash on its balance sheet at the end of 2021, giving it additional firepower to capture market share, it said.