Ryanair and easyJet ‘busiest airlines in 2021’

In a second year of pandemic disruption airlines slashed the number of UK flights by 71% but Liverpool’s main carriers, Ryanair and easyJet, were the UK’s biggest operators. Tony McDonough reports

Passengers board a Ryanair plane at Liverpool John Lennon Airport


Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport’s two biggest carriers Ryanair and easyJet operated more international flights out of the UK in 2021 than any other airline.

In another year of disruption for the aviation sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of international flights out of the UK dropped by 71% to just over 406,000. This compares to the last pre-pandemic year in 2019.

Aviation analytics firm Cirium, which compiled the figures, says the volume of UK domestic flights also plummeted by almost 60% during the year. The UK’s largest carrier was Ryanair with just over 100,000 flights. The figure for easyJet was 82,000 flights.

Both airlines are by far the biggest at Liverpool Airport with Ryanair set to operate 37 routes from LJLA by next summer. In July, the Irish carrier’s director of commercial, Jason McGuinness, told LBN it was to begin 10 new European routes out of Liverpool.

In November Ryanair announced two new routes for next summer to Brussels Charleroi in Belgium and the city of Zadar in Croatia.

In mid-June easyJet announced it was beginning flights to Bournemouth from Liverpool starting on July 10. Later it added a twice-weekly return service to Malta. It operates 25 routes out of Liverpool.

Cirium said global aviation capacity by the end of 2021 would be at 2006 levels. It is forecasting a growth of 47% in capacity in 2022 which would take it up to 2015 levels. However, it acknowledges the Omicron variant of COVID, and the possibility of other variants created a degree of uncertainty.

Chief executive Jeremy Bowen said: “The past year has had its challenges as we continue to face fluctuating cases of COVID-19, new variants—most recently omicron—and varied vaccination programs per country. There is light at the end of the tunnel as we see international travel corridors reopening.


easyJet, aircraft
easyJet operates 25 routes out of Liverpool John Lennon Airport


“However, we will continue to track this momentum as new variants arise and we hope the invaluable analyses in our Airline Insights Report help to navigate what’s to come.”

In the last few days Ryanair has doubled and says it expects annual losses for the year to the end of March 2022 to be double its original forecasts. The Dublin-based carrier says it now expected a net annual loss of between €250m and €450m. It is also slashing capacity in January amid further restrictions caused by the omicron surge.

The sharp fall in the number of flights during the pandemic has also hit airports hard with Liverpool no exception. However, in December it was announced that German carrier Lufthansa was launching a link between Liverpool and Frankfurt in 2022. It is LJLA’s first hub link in a decade.

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