In surprising news, a Ryanair flight from Faro to London only saw 13 passengers onboard, despite the current demand. The flight was one of many added by the budget carrier once Portugal joined the UK’s green list last week. However, demand is still picking up slowly, as evidenced by this empty flight.
This week, The Independent’s Simon Calder found himself on a Ryanair flight from Faro to London Stansted. The flight was notable since it was one of the first since the UK added Portugal to its green list, allowing quarantine-free travel in both directions. One might expect many in the Algrave region to be excited to visit London (especially with restrictions eased this week). However, this wasn’t the case.
Instead, flight FR9143 had a dismal 13 passengers onboard for the mid-afternoon departure. There was a 14th passenger booked, but they never showed up, leaving Ryanair with a load factor of under 7% on its 189-seat 737-800. However, those onboard received a ‘private jet’ experience, according to Calder, albeit without the champagne and caviar.
Each passenger had their own row(s) with cabin crew available for anything they might personally need. However, the story underlines the rocky restart to European travel this week. For airlines to return to any semblance of normalcy, passenger numbers need to go up, and fast.
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Not all bad
While the return leg to London only saw 13 passengers, the outbound flight saw much more respectable numbers. Travelers from London, likely desperate to enjoy the sunny Algarve, filled the flight to nearly 80% capacity. With 151 passengers onboard, this is certainly a respectable figure for Ryanair, given the conditions.
However, there are a few notable facts about this low-load flight. Ryanair added these flights soon after the UK’s green list announcement was made on May 7th. This last-minute addition might have meant travelers booked with other airlines or on existing flights instead. However, we can only confirm this once data from subsequent flights this month rolls in.
The coming weeks will hopefully see more travelers begin to take flights as restrictions are eased. Moreover, returning tourists will also help fill up aircraft, pushing up load factors shortly.
However, entering the UK still remains a complex process, with travelers required to booking an RT-PCR test, showing a negative report on arrival, and fill a “Passenger Locator Form” beforehand. All of these hurdles could dissuade potential tourists considering the cost and complexities.
There is good news for Ryanair today. The European Union is set to reopen travel from international destinations for the summer, clearing the way for non-European tourists to return. With internal EU travel already planning to open up, carriers like Ryanair will likely see passenger figures increase rapidly this summer.
For now, airlines are hoping that May marks the beginning of a long road to recovery for the battered travel industry.
What do you think about Ryanair’s low-density flight? Will figures improve soon? Let us know in the comments!