Ryanair to boost long-haul link as profits hit €1.3bn
Ryanair plans to deepen its relationship with Spanish long-haul carrier Air Europa later this year as it tests its passenger feeder proposition in advance of linking up with Aer Lingus and Norwegian, according to CEO Michael O'Leary.
And the Irish airline will again extend an offer to Alitalia to sell the embattled Italian carrier's long-haul tickets on the Ryanair website.
It also hopes to expand its connecting flights service that's being trialled in Rome, to Dublin by next year.
Just days ago, Ryanair began selling Air Europa long-haul tickets to destinations in North and South America on its website, but will also start transferring baggage later this year.
Aer Lingus and Norwegian have also sealed deals with Ryanair to feed passengers onto their networks, but unresolved IT issues have delayed the start of those agreements.
Mr O'Leary said he hopes that by the end of this calendar year, or by the first calendar quarter of 2018, that Ryanair will be able to connect Ryanair passengers directly through Madrid on to Air Europa flights.
"The bags will go straight through to their long-haul destination. That's where it becomes a much bigger and more interesting arrangement," he said. "It also is kind of a forerunner for our ongoing discussions with Aer Lingus, Norwegian and some of those other long-haul carriers. It's the first of a trend there."
Ryanair chief commercial officer David O'Brien also said the airline is planning to re-engage with Italian authorities regarding a proposal that would see the Irish carrier sell Alitalia tickets on the Ryanair website, as it does with Air Europa.
"We would sell their long-haul flights on their website, but management (at Alitalia) has been in a state of flux," he said.
"We've alerted the new (restructuring) commissioners to our previous proposal and we expect that has part of the restructuring process they will be following up on that."
Mr O'Leary said he expects to see Alitalia emerge from its latest administration with a focus on long-haul routes and a smaller short-haul operation.
Ryanair yesterday reported that its profits after tax in its last financial year rose 6pc to €1.31bn. Revenue was up 2pc at €6.6bn. The airline is starting a new, €600m share buyback programme. It also plans to acquire a handful of extra jets from Boeing and extend leases to boost capacity next year.