Ryanair has seen a ‘dramatic recovery’ in bookings over the past two weeks as the easing of pandemic travel restrictions across Europe encourages people to fly again.
The carrier’s planes are flying at around 75% and could reach 90% capacity by the peak of the peak summer season, chief executive Michael O’Leary said during a briefing in Milan on Wednesday.
Ryanair expects fares to remain ‘very low’ until May before rising for the summer, by which time it was possible that a combination of high demand and limited capacity could see them climb to the top. above pre-coronavirus levels, Mr O’Leary said. Trends for next winter are hard to predict, he said.
Shares of Ryanair soared and were up 3.4% in mid-afternoon Dublin.
The comments mark a change in tone from Europe’s largest discount airline. Late last month, when Ryanair released its quarterly results, Mr O’Leary was cautious about the pace of the rebound in tourism.
At the time, Ryanair said it would cut prices to boost demand this quarter as more countries considered scrapping travel restrictions. Since then, countries like France and Spain have moved to relax the rules for those vaccinated, and the number of infections has fallen across the region.
European airlines are counting on a bumper summer season driven by pent-up demand after a two-year drop in travel caused by the Covid outbreak.
Smaller rivals EasyJet and Wizz Air are adding new routes and increasing capacity to meet demand.
Mr O’Leary was in Milan to introduce flights from northern Italy to Newcastle, England, Frankfurt, Germany and the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Ryanair previously announced plans for aggressive expansion when travel returns, with 720 new routes and 15 new bases announced for the financial year starting in April. On Wednesday, the carrier said it would base 25 more planes in Italy this summer and add another 20 routes from the country.
Mr O’Leary said in an interview that he does not see labor shortages putting inflationary pressure on airlines like in some other sectors. The applicant pool has been swollen with pilots and flight attendants who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, he said.
The offer is however more restricted in the United Kingdom, the recruitment of cabin crew being made more difficult by a shortage of foreign workers following the exit of the country from the EU. –Bloomberg