Strong Recovery? Ryanair At Pre-COVID Winter Passenger Numbers

With the announcement of Ryanair’s traffic from August 2021, it looks as though the Irish low-cost carrier is making huge strides with its return from the COVID-19 pandemic. While not up to typical August traffic numbers, the airline is now exceeding the passengers that it would see during the quieter winter months.

Ryanair, Boeing 737 MAX, Summer 2021
Ryanair has reached pre-pandemic winter passenger levels. Photo: Getty Images.

Around the world, airlines are gradually seeing demand return for their flights. Short-haul is recovering faster than long-haul due to travel restrictions being looser locally. European aviation is doing remarkably well after the European Union launched its digital COVID-19 status certificate scheme, which is seen in Ryanair’s passenger numbers.

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Beating pre-pandemic numbers

According to Ryanair, the low-cost carrier carried a staggering 11.1 million passengers around Europe in the month of August. This sits at three-quarters the number of passengers carried in August 2019, which is impressive in itself. The airline had previously predicted that it would carry 10 million passengers during the month.

Ryanair, Traffic, Pre-Pandemic Levels
Ryanair last carried significantly more passengers in October 2019, well before the pandemic reached Europe. Data: Ryanair

Arguably more impressive than this feat is that the last time this figure was beaten was in December 2019, with 0.1 million more passengers due to the Christmas season. In November 2019, the airline carried 11 million passengers. The COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the airline in March 2020, meaning that the airline’s passenger numbers have now reached what is typical for the quieter winter season.

The airline also had an impressive load factor for these flights, showing that capacity is being reasonably well-targeted and utilized. The airline had a load factor of 82%, meaning that, on average, more than four out of five seats on each aircraft were occupied. While load factor wasn’t reported at the height of the pandemic, it dropped to a low of 67% in April. It typically sat above 95% before the pandemic began.

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It wouldn’t be unexpected if the number of passengers falls next month. While such a drop was the beginning of a challenging winter period last year, it won’t necessarily be the case this year. September is typically a slightly quieter month for Ryanair anyway as the school holidays end. According to schedule data from Cirium, the airline has 68,729 flights scheduled for September 2021. This in itself is a decrease on the 71,000+ flights operated in August.

Ryanair, Traffic, Pre-Pandemic Levels
The airline beat its August traffic estimate by 1.1 million. Data: Ryanair | | Cirium

Given this, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if 11.1 million is the maximum Ryanair carries in a month this year. However, it seems as though the airline believes that its recovery will continue. This week, the airline announced 14 new routes from London during the winter season, which should generate 500 new jobs. It is also continuing to take delivery of its new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, intending to make use of the type heavily next summer.

What do you make of Ryanair’s August 2021 traffic figures? Let us know what you think of the numbers and why in the comments!