Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, says weeks bookings have treble as COVID-19 restrictions are eased and the airline has launched five new routes out of Liverpool. Tony McDonough reports
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary says flights bookings have trebled in the last few weeks as Europe starts to ease its COVID-19 restrictions.
On Monday Ryanair reported a pre-tax loss of more the £700m for the year to March 31 as the full impact of the pandemic on the Dublin-based carrier laid out. Multiple lockdowns led to an 81% fall in passenger numbers to just 27.5m.
However, Mr O’Leary said its recovery had already begun, revealing weekly bookings have risen from 500,000 in early April to 1.5m a week in May. This is good news for Liverpool John Lennon Airport where Ryanair is its biggest airline alongside easyJet.
Ryanair has shown confidence in Liverpool despite the impact of the pandemic on the travel sector. In the past six months the airline has announced five new routes out of Liverpool, the latest being a new service to Stockholm.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr O’Leary said: “The rate of bookings suggests there is a huge amount of confidence. We are very optimistic for the next couple of months.
“For vaccinated Britons going to the beaches of Portugal, Spain and Greece, I think there is very little risk. Everybody is right to be cautious, but I think everybody can take their holiday in Europe with a high degree of confidence.”
Ryanair’s annual £702m loss was a little better than an £717m loss forecast by many analysts. Mr O’Leary added: “It’s better than we predicted, but still a fairly traumatic loss for an airline that has been consistently profitable for our 35-year history.”
The carrier’s full-year revenue fell by 81% to £1.41bn. Ancillary revenue delivered a solid performance as more guests chose priority boarding and reserved seating, resulting in an 11% increase in per passenger spend to almost £19.
Its balance sheet is, according to Ryanair, one of the strongest in the industry. Since March 2020, it has lowered cash burn by cutting costs, participating in EU Government payroll support schemes, cancelling share buybacks and deferring non-essential capital expenditure. It has raised £1.68bn in the past year and has £2.71bn in cash.
In its outlook, Ryanair said: “FY22 continues to be challenging, with uncertainty around when and where COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions will be eased. The group expects Q1 traffic to be heavily curtailed to between 5m and 6m guests.
“With a very close-in booking curve, visibility for the remainder of FY22 is close to zero although bookings have jumped significantly from a very low base since week one of April. It is therefore impossible to provide meaningful FY22 guidance at this time.”