Airlines start winter price war to lure passengers
AIRliNE passengers are expected to benefit from a winter price war as Ryanair and Aer Lingus try to boost traffic numbers with seat sales and promotions.
With Ryanair's passenger traffic having suffered during the summer's heatwave and bookings for the autumn weaker than anticipated, the airline is preparing a marketing blitz to fill its aircraft.
That bodes well for travellers hunting for some autumn sunshine, weekend breaks or winter skiing trips.
The airline has already been offering flights from Ireland to the some UK destinations this week for mid-week travel between October and November for €14.99 – about 25pc less than they were available for a number of days ago, while it's also been selling one-way fares to some destinations in Europe for just €19.99.
All those fares include taxes and non-optional charges.
And consumers can expect the lower fares to keep coming – possibly for as long as six months until next spring.
That could prompt rivals such as Aer Lingus to follow suit. It has already been running a sale with cheap seats on offer to destinations including Britain, continental Europe and the United States.
With Ryanair planning a sales blitz, that could mean more offers from Aer Lingus and a bonanza for passengers, particularly those willing to travel mid-week.
Ryanair is planning a series of sales after it issued a profit warning to investors that knocked €1.3bn from its stock market value. Demand for flights between September and November has been weaker than it expected, so now it's keen to fill the seats and that means having to cut prices.
"There is a weakness out there in September, October and November," said Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, pointing out that it's evident across Europe and has been impacted by austerity measures.
"We're going to be much more aggressive now on pricing, promotions and seat sales," he said. "If fares and yields are going to be a little bit lower than we expected for a quarter or two then so be it."
However, he also hinted that consumers shouldn't get too carried away in thinking that they'll get massive discounts.
"We're not looking at something that's going to be 25pc or 50pc below where we thought it was going to be, but on balance we're having to open up more lower (priced) seats," he said.
When Ryanair issued a major profit warning in 2004, it started offering seats for £1 and €1. But don't expect that to happen just yet.
Mr O'Leary said Ryanair wanted to ensure it carried 81 million passengers in the current financial year, which ends next March. He said if the price people were willing to pay for flights was lower for the next six months, Ryanair accepted that.
But he also hopes that even though passengers might pay less for their seats, they'll continue to spend more during flights, on everything from scratchcards to sandwiches.
Ryanair value takes €1.3bn nosedive: Business Week