Ryanair expects to operate ‘few, if any’ flights from Ireland after January

Ryanair expects its January traffic to fall to under 1.25 million passengers.

Ellie Donnelly

Shares in Ryanair were down over 2pc Thursday afternoon after the airline cut its passenger number outlook and warned it plans to operate "few, if any” flights from Ireland beginning the end of January until the latest travel restrictions are eased.

The Michael O’Leary headed company has cut its full year traffic forecast to below 30 million from fewer than 35 million, according to a statement from the group.

The airline expects the newly announced Covid-19 lockdowns in Ireland, the UK, and a small number of other European Union countries this week, will “materially reduce” its flight schedules and traffic forecast through January, February and March.

In response to the measures Ryanair will “significantly cut” its schedules from Thursday January 21. This will result in “few, if any, flights being operated to/from Ireland or the UK from the end of January” until the latest travel restrictions are removed.

Ryanair now expects its January traffic to fall to under 1.25 million passengers. The new restrictions could also reduce February and March traffic to as little as 500,000 passengers each month, it said.

In what is Ryanair’s fifth time cutting traffic forecasts for its current financial year, the airline is predicting passenger numbers of between 26 million and 30 million for the 12 months to March 31, as Covid-19 continues to impact the aviation sector.

Ryanair does not expect these reductions will materially affect its net loss for the year to 31 March 2021, as many of these flights would have been unprofitable for the group.

It also called on the Irish and UK Governments to accelerate the pace of vaccine rollouts.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “Ireland's Covid-19 travel restrictions are already the most stringent in Europe, and so these new flight restrictions are inexplicable and ineffective when Ireland continues to operate an open border between the Republic and the North of Ireland.”

It added that as the latest lockdown will not get rid of the virus, “there is an onus on the Irish Government to accelerate the rollout of vaccines, and the fact that the Danish Government, with a similar five million population, has already vaccinated 10 times more citizens than Ireland shows that emergency action is needed to speed Covid vaccinations in Ireland.”

Analysts at Davy said the latest update from the airline will not materially affect the net loss forecasts.

“Winter, and in particular Q4, is always loss making and Ryanair’s very low fixed cost base will limit losses by not operating,” Stephen Furlong and Ross Harvey, of stockbrokers Davy, said in a note.

However, they added that it is “crucial” for Ryanair, and the industry, “that bookings for the summer start coming in during this period.”

The travel industry has been particularly badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its financial year 2020 Ryanair carried 149 million passengers.