Ryanair carried record numbers of passengers this summer and says its budget-friendly flights will attract even more customers as Europe enters recession.
The low-cost carrier posted its biggest ever annual profit on Monday, earning 1.37 billion euros ($1.36 billion) in the six months to September. This surpassed the record of 1.15 billion euros ($1.14 billion) in 2019.
It carried 95.1 million passengers during the period, more than 39.1 million a year ago. That’s 11% higher than the same period in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Ryanair ( RYAAY ) now expects to carry 168 million passengers in the 12 months to March 2023, 1.5 million more than previously. forecast and 13% higher than the year before the pandemic. The company’s shares rose 3.7% in Dublin.
Ryanair has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever, even as several competitors went bankrupt or required government-backed bailouts. It was also able to avoid the staff shortage faced by many rivals this summer, including budget airline EasyJet.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said fleet and passenger capacity cuts by rivals had created “tremendous growth opportunities” for the Irish carrier, with its market share “rising” in major European markets.
“Millions of passengers are switching to Ryanair and we suspect this will continue,” O’Leary said. a published video on the company’s website.
He said there were concerns about the impact of recession and inflation on Ryanair’s business “excessive”.
“People don’t stop flying in recessions, but they become much more price sensitive…Ryanair grows stronger in a recession because we have a huge cost advantage over our competitors, that cost advantage is increasing and people are becoming more price sensitive to us.” he added.
The strong earnings mean the company will reverse pay cuts for more than 90% of its pilots and cabin crew starting next month, earlier than expected. “These long-term pay agreements with the majority of our people have now delivered fully recovered pay 28 months earlier than previously agreed,” O’Leary said.
While Ryanair has recovered from the pandemic faster than much of the aviation industry, its growth next year could be hampered by Boeing’s ( BA ) “continued inability to meet its delivery schedule,” according to O’Leary.
The planemaker has promised to deliver all 51 “Gamechanger” 737s on order for Ryanair before next summer, but O’Leary believes there is a growing risk of “slippage” with these deliveries.
Known for his straightforward manner, the boss of the airline He described Boeing management as “headless chickens” earlier this year in a scathing criticism of the plane’s delays.
Despite the strong results, O’Leary said Ryanair’s recovery remains “fragile” and “prone to shocks” due to new variants of Covid or the war in Ukraine.