Ryanair has reported a surge in profits to a record €1.4bn (£1.2bn) for the first half of its financial year, as the airline said it was seeing no letup in the demand for air travel going into winter after record summer passenger numbers.
The airline reported greater traffic at higher fares than the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, the first time that has been achieved since the first Covid-19 lockdowns.
Profits after tax soared to €1.37bn in the six months to 30 September, compared with a loss of €48m for the same period last year. Revenues for the period tripled to €6.6bn, as it carried 95.1 million passengers, compared with 39.1 million last year.
Airlines across Europe have experienced a rise in demand in recent months as countries have eased pandemic travel restrictions and customers have resumed air travel for business and holidays.
Ryanair had reported profits of €203m between April and June, its first profitable spring since before the pandemic, but the chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the strength of the acceleration since then had been unexpected and that there were “strong forward bookings into Christmas”.
It was able to charge passengers 14% more to travel compared with the pre-pandemic period, and said it would restore pay levels for its crews to pre-pandemic levels on 1 December – four months earlier than previously planned.
O’Leary told the Guardian fares were likely to continue to rise into next year, bar a resurgence of Covid or escalation of war deterring travel. He said that while Ryanair was growing, “the competition are all cutting capacity – Lufthansa, IAG, Air France – are exposed to higher oil prices. If capacity keeps falling we’ll see fares rise again by somewhere between 5% and 10%.”
He said Ryanair expected high demand for air travel around Europe well into 2023. “The Americans are booking very strongly into next year because of the strong dollar, and the Asians look like they are going to return to travelling Europe next year because of the lifting of Covid restrictions,” he added.
O’Leary said there was little sign of customer numbers dipping in the UK, Ryanair’s main market, either from climate-conscious customers or from people worried about an economic recession, which the Bank of England says has already begun.
Ryanair is continuing to receive strong forward bookings from UK and European passengers, pushing up fares. O’Leary added: “We’ve been surprised: we were expecting like everyone else, into October fares would come off, with recession, higher interest rates, energy prices. But there’s no sign of it – we’re talking about recession but we’re essentially at full employment … people are still spending.”
He said the company was not worried about the impact of a recession: “They’re maybe getting a little more price-sensitive but that sends them to fly with Ryanair rather than BA or Air France.”