Betting Big: How Ryanair Will Reach 225 Million Passengers In 5 Years

The Ryanair Group has reaffirmed its intention to carry 225 million passengers in the financial year 2026 (FY26) – by the year ending March 31st, 2026 – when it expects over 620 operational aircraft. The ultra-low-cost carrier anticipates a strong recovery this coming winter and into 2022 on the back of even lower than usual fares to drive demand.

Ryanair B737-800
Ryanair and Wizz Air have used the pandemic to grow. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Flickr.

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225 million passengers are targeted

Ryanair is confrontational and controversial; it does it deliberately. So it was at World Routes in Milan that Jason McGuinness, Director of Commercial, said that the Ryanair Group’s passenger volume would reach 225+ million by March 2026, up by 50% in just years. That is 25 million more passengers than previously expected by that time.

Since the pandemic started, McGuinness said that ULCC has added over 500 ‘new’ routes and 14 new bases, with its latest at Venice Marco Polo – announced on the same day as Wizz Air. Other new Ryanair bases include Beauvais, Billund, Corfu, Chania, Helsinki, Malaga, Newcastle, Rhodes, Stockholm Arlanda, Treviso, and Turin. As McGuinness commented:

“Ryanair has excelled while others pulled back. Plans are 10%+ higher than pre-pandemic. We have an awlful lot of work to do in Europe – we only have a 15% market share.”

Ryanair plans to FY26
McGuinness’ 50% growth comment is based on comparing pre-pandemic FY2020 (ending March 31st, 2019) and FY26. Image: from a World Routes presentation.

Could see 40+ more aircraft in Italy

Unlike virtually all other European airlines, Ryanair and Wizz Air have pushed ahead this year. In the case of Wizz Air, this was mainly to reposition itself as more of an intra-Western Europe operator, although its CEO confirmed that Central and Eastern Europe would remain its core. Italy has become a battleground for Ryanair, Wizz Air, and easyJet, a situation that exacerbates ITA’s already precarious position.

“We love competition and don’t need to counter them [Wizz Air] in Italy. We’re Italy’s largest airline with over 90 based aircraft. And we’ll add 40 or more aircraft if the country removes its municipal tax.”

Ryanair Group's October 2021 network
This is the Ryanair Group’s October 2021 network. Image: OAG Mapper.

No new bases until at least winter 2022

Looking ahead, Ryanair doesn’t envisage any new bases for at least a year, as it manages all its introductions, returning seat load factor (SLF) to its normal 95%+, and hopes that its fares – dampened to stimulate more growth – and the Europe-wide recovery continues.

“Winter 2022 is realistically the earliest time for our next new base… but as always, we’re open to proposals and can move aircraft around.”

Ryanair Lisbon
This month, Lisbon, where this photo was taken, is the Ryanair Group’s 24th airport if measured by seats for sale. Some 38 routes are bookable. Photo: Getty Images.

MAX 200: “dramatically reduces unit costs”

The key to Ryanair’s future is its B737 MAX 200s. It welcomed 12 examples in summer 2021, with the 197-seat variant used across 190 Group routes in October. Previous Simple Flying analysis showed that they’re used on routes 23% longer than the B737-800, benefiting from “16% less fuel burn and eight more passengers per flight.” McGuinness told World Routes that:

“The MAX 200 dramatically reduces our unit costs and enables us to grow even faster. The Ryanair Group will be a much stronger airline [going forward] by lowering costs further and growing 50% in the next five years.”

What are your views on Ryanair’s plans? Let us know in the comments.