Bouncing Back: Ryanair Reports First Quarterly Profit Since COVID

Europe’s largest low-cost airline Ryanair has reported its first profit since the start of the COVID crisis. Today, the airline posted a profit of €225 million ($260 million) for the three months ending in September. However, the airline warned that its performance over the whole year may be worse than expected, as it anticipates having to heavily discount tickets over the winter to fly full planes.

Ryanair, Passengers Doubled, COVID-19 Recovery
Ryanair booked a profit in the second quarter. Photo: Ryanair

First profit in the bag

Ryanair has today posted a second quarter profit of €225 million ($260 million), the first since the October to December quarter of 2019. The airline flew more services than any other European airline over the summer, carrying 39.1 million passengers in the first half of the year, an increase of 128% compared to the same period in 2019.

In terms of load factor on those flights, the airline achieved 79%, which is still lower than its usual 90% plus benchmark, but an improvement over the 72% in the previous year. More recent figures released today for the month of October show the positive effect the unraveling of travel restrictions is having on the airline. Its October traffic showed 11.3 million passengers carried with a load factor of 84%.

Group CEO Michael O’Leary commented on the better performance, saying,

“Following a very badly disrupted Q1 … traffic rebounded in Q2 with the successful rollout of the EU Digital Covid Certificates (“DCC”) in July.  H1 bookings were mostly “close-in” and required price stimulation, particularly to/from the UK where consumer confidence was undermined (until early Oct.), by the UK Govt.’s confusing and inconsistent traffic light system.  In recent weeks, we have seen a surge in bookings for the Oct. mid-term and Christmas breaks and we expect this peak buoyancy to continue into Easter and S.22.”

The unraveling of travel restrictions is seeing things picking up at the airline. Photo: Arran Rice | Simple Flying

Overall, the first half of the year still ran at a loss. For the first six months, Ryanair has reported a loss of €48 million ($55.5 million). Despite enjoying a profitable quarter, the airline still expects to finish the year in the negative. Specifically, O’Leary has noted that the markets will require ‘price stimulation, underpricing flights to get passengers onboard. This, he believes, will result in a full year loss of between €100 and €200 million ($116 – $231 million).

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The MAX 8-200 is ‘better than expected’

Ryanair has been eagerly awaiting delivery of its specially configured 737 MAX aircraft, known as the MAX 8-200. Following delays caused by the grounding of the type, the airline finally took delivery of its first ‘gamechanger’ aircraft in June this year. O’Leary is clearly delighted with the planes, and stated that its real-life performance has been better than promised, noting,

“While load factors have yet to recover to pre-Covid levels, the performance of the Gamechangers has exceeded our expectations this summer. Operational reliability, fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions have, so far, exceeded guidelines with very positive passenger and crew feedback to these new, more fuel efficient, quieter aircraft.”

B737 MAX
The ‘gamechanger’ aircraft has performed better than expected. Photo: Ryanair.

O’Leary is so confident in these new aircraft, he has upped his guidance for future growth as a result. The airline now forecasts carrying 225 million passengers a year by 2026, up from a figure of 200 million forecast previously. Ryanair, as a group, expects to have a fleet of at least 65 MAX 8-200s in time for summer 2022, and is anticipating taking its entire order book of 210 aircraft by 2026.