Ryanair Passengers Drop Again As Second Wave Restrictions Bite

Ryanair has seen its passenger numbers fall for September. The airline’s passengers were down 64% compared to the same time last year. This was only 50% in August. The drop could be related to increasing travel restrictions as Europe enters its second COVID-19 wave.

Ryanair, September, Passenger numbers
Ryanair saw its passenger load fall once more. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

While things are much better than half a year ago, the world’s aviation industry is still hurting badly from the worst crisis of its history. Over the past six months, however, things have been steadily improving, especially in European aviation. Take British Airways as an example. In October, the British flag carrier aims to operate flights to 138 destinations across the globe.

Ryanair’s passengers drop

Relatively speaking, Ryanair had a smashing August. This year the airline carried seven million passengers that month. This was just under half of the 14.9 million it moved in August 2019. Had traffic stabilized at seven million, a slight drop would’ve been expected due to seasonality.

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To put this into context, a year ago and long before the current pandemic started, from August to September, passenger numbers fell by 0.8 million to 14.1 million. This represented a drop of 5.4%. However, the decrease doesn’t correlate to the fall seen this year. In September 2020, Ryanair carried just 5.1 million passengers. This is still far better than the 40,000 carried in April, though.

Ryanair, September, Passenger numbers
September 2020 traffic stood at just 36% of its 2019 figure. Graph: Simple Flying

What could account for the drop?

Once borders started to reopen, and travel restrictions began to fall, there was a surge in people wanting to travel again. Ryanair recognized this demand, as was illustrated on its UK-Portugal flight network.

Portugal wasn’t initially accounted for on the UK’s quarantine waiver list. However, it was added to the UK’s ‘safe list’ on August 20th. As a result, Ryanair added 14 additional weekly flights from the UK to Faro from September 11th to October 24th. Ryanair even held a sale to celebrate the routes. However, on September 12th, one day after the flights started, Portugal was removed from the UK’s safe list with little more than one day of warning.

This goes to show the uncertainty of booking travel. A passenger could book flights for a month in the future. Yet, in the period before the flight, they could become unable to travel due to quarantine restrictions. Worse still, the passenger could already be abroad when the changes happen, meaning they have no choice but to quarantine on their return.

TSA, Passengers, Aviation Recovery
Increasing restrictions due to rising COVID-19 cases could be to blame. Photo: Getty Images

For now, Ryanair has waived the change fee for all flights booked for travel in October and November. Passengers can rebook for any time before March 21st and only pay the fare difference. However, passengers must initiate the change at least seven days before the initial flight, meaning that short term changes due to new rules are not possible.

What do you make of Ryanair’s September passengers? What should we expect in October? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!