MIAMI – Ryanair (FR) has no intention to fly with empty seats if social distancing measures on flights are implemented because of their impact on recovery, said its CEO.

While the airline expects to progressively resume its flights month by month, that would not be possible with only 66% load factors as a result of empty middle seats, added O’Leary.

Photo: Ryan Taylor

O’Leary’s perspective


Ryanair’s recovery plan will start in July with the resumption of 40% of its capacity, then, 60% in August and 80% in September, which would allow, in an ideal scenario, relatively quick recovery in air traffic alongside price stimulation.

However, the current situation may not soften if several guidelines are implemented. In relation to these guidelines, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) said that it was preparing government measures regarding social distancing on flights.

Photo: Ryan Taylor

O’Leary said in an interview that “either the government pays for the middle seat or we won’t fly,” as new guidelines would not allow full tickets for passengers, affecting the expected profits per flight.

Thus, Europe should suggest the easiest actions such as mandatory masks on transport and temperature checks at airports in the same way as Asia, added O’Leary.

Even though carriers like Emirates (EK) and Delta Air Lines (DL) already announced that they would block out the middle seats in flights, O’Leary said that a “middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway.”

Photo: Ryan Taylor

Future recovery


Further, O’Leary believes that traffic levels could return to normal in the summer of 2021 with the arrival of an effective coronavirus vaccine, which will allow FR to have its 2019 traffic plus growth. However, he thinks that airports would still have little traffic.

While expecting the resumption of summer schedule on higher capacity, the Irish airline also expects to reduce its capacity by 60% at the end of the year, as the winter season is a less busy period.

Photo: Ryan Taylor