LONDON – Ryanair (FR) CEO Michael O’Leary said he expects the airline’s capacity to return to 80% of pre-pandemic levels by the Summer of next year.

O’Leary has placed this relaxed deadline for capacity due to continued travel restrictions being imposed by countries across Europe. He did state that he expects to see travel surge once the restrictions are lifted, especially with the COVID-19 vaccine nearing the end of testing.

So with the Summer 2021 target in mind, O’Leary has already dubbed the Winter 20/21 season a “write-off” for the industry, as the priority is rescuing the industry as opposed to making revenue.

Photo: Daniel Sander

O’Leary’s Comments

In a travel conference this week, O’Leary expanded on such points. “There’s reasonable optimism now that summer 2021 will get back to some degree of normality. In short-haul, I see no reason why we won’t get back to 75 to 80 percent of 2019”.

“The only restriction on us will be whether we can hire and train pilots and cabin crew. November is always a bad time of the year for the industry. The real issue for us is whether we can rescue some level of coverage for Christmas.

“After that, nothing will happen until probably Easter. But we do need to look forward. Vaccines are coming – the question is whether they will be widely available for summer 2021. I think they will.”

Photo: John Leivaditis

Restrictions Continuing to Batter The Industry

With the UK being a big chunk of Ryanair’s revenues, such funds are not being received due to the travel ban imposed by the UK Government for non-essential international travel.

With the new restrictions in place until December 2, the airline has cut back on its capacity out of the UK by 20%, but O’Leary stated that Ryanair is “poised for a period of very dynamic growth”.

He did say however that if this is to happen, then a working test and trace regime must be implemented, adding criticism to the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock over the lack of effect the system has had since its creation.

Photo: Marco Macca

O’Leary Calls for Aggressive Governmental Measures

On top of the UK, O’Leary has criticised the European Union for its handling of the aviation industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He slammed the “incompetence” of European governments in managing the pandemic, stating that more help needs to be given to the airline sector if it is going to remain afloat during these difficult times.

Back to the UK, Ryanair and O’Leary alike have called for the removal of Air Passenger Duty tax as this would “stimulate a much more aggressive recovery”, rather than the initial 2024 recovery forecasts by many industry analysts in aviation.

This would also help low-cost carriers such as Norwegian, easyJet and others who may be struggling because of such taxes being applied onto fares into the UK.

Photo: Marco Macca

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, Ryanair has set itself a manageable and easy target for a close-to-full demand-based recovery, which won’t add any further financial pressure onto the carrier.

Between now and the Summer 2021 season, we will no doubt see a plethora of route announcements made by the Irish low-cost carrier.

One question that can be asked is, with the airline aiming for 80% capacity by Summer 2021, whether the 737 MAX 200 Gamechanger aircraft it has on order will be in these plans, or whether such deliveries will be deferred beyond the Summer period.

All we can do in the meantime is to wait and see what FR will do during this pandemic and whether it will be the right steps to ensure success in the long-term.

Featured Image: Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS. Photo Credit: Francesco Cecchetti