Flights to US will cost just €10 on Ryanair – O'Leary
RYANAIR will sell €10 flights to the US when it finally manages to get the long-haul aircraft needed, airline chief Michael O'Leary has said.
The airline has a business plan ready for launching transatlantic flights but admits it will be several years before it can get the planes needed.
Mr O'Leary told the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Meath yesterday that Ryanair would offer €10 flights to Boston and New York and US$10 (€7.30) seats back to Europe.
However, passengers would pay extra for everything from meals to baggage.
The flights would not operate from Dublin but would fly from 12-14 major European cities to 12-14 major US destinations and a full service would begin within six months of Ryanair getting the aircraft to do so.
Mr O'Leary said if they opened just in Dublin, for example, Aer Lingus would "dump on them" to protect their transatlantic route.
"We can make money on 99 cent fares in Europe – not every seat will be €10 of course, there will also need to be a very high number of business or premium seats," he said.
However, it would be four to five years before this happened as the various state-backed Gulf airlines are buying up all available aircraft, without the same need to get a good price as private airlines.
Mr O'Leary praised the Government for scrapping the travel tax to Ireland from April 1 as "the single biggest step to boosting tourism to Ireland since it came into power".
He said Ryanair would carry an extra one million passengers into and out of Ireland as a result of the €3 per passenger tax being axed, creating an extra €300m in tax revenue to the Government through increased tourism spending. That meant it would be worth 10 times as much as the €30m generated by the tax last year, as well as creating over 1,000 new jobs.
Mr O'Leary said that Ryanair's advance bookings for the summer season were already 6pc up on last year suggesting it is going to be a bumper year.
However, as a consequence of its move towards being a more customer-friendly airline, he said it will have to spend more on advertising as the airline will no longer rely on generating free publicity by him being an "annoying prat".
While last year Ryanair had spent just €1m on advertising throughout Europe this year its net advertising spend would be €35m. "We need a more sophisticated image than me running around being a cheeky chappy or an annoying prat," he said.
Mr O'Leary said that "being savages" for free publicity worked in newer markets such as Italy where Ryanair was still breaking through, but just annoyed people in its more mature markets.
He also urged Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to sell off Irish airports to make them more efficient as had been done in most European countries.
Mr Varadkar hinted that privatising airport terminals while maintaining government ownership of the runways and ground areas could be an option, noting this was an avenue favoured in the US.
Challenged by Mr O'Leary to sell off the government stake in Aer Lingus, Mr Varadkar said that the Government would get a better deal if Ryanair first sold its stake.
Mr Varadkar said the Government would sell its stake in Aer Lingus but only "at the right price, at the right time and to the right buyer".
Addressing the IHF conference dinner last night in Trim, Taoiseach Enda Kenny hailed the 7pc increase in tourist visitor numbers last year.
He said that a review of tourism policy was currently being completed.