Ryanair CEO: “there’s only one way out of this crisis”

Ryanair CEO “there’s only one way out of this crisis”

In characteristically fun style, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair Group CEO, opened by saying: “I’m like Willie Walsh [who was also CEO of a parent group], but I have more hair and I look younger and better than Wille does. But now he’s retired he probably looks younger and better than me.”

Michael O’Leary is clear: “There’s only one way out of this crisis.”

Speaking at ACI Europe’s annual congress on 17 November, the Ryanair Group CEO said that “volumes will restore reasonably quickly, at least on short-haul.  I don’t agree about this rubbish that it’ll take until 2024-2025 to get back to 2019 levels.”

He expects traffic volumes to be back to pre-coronavirus levels by summer 2022, especially if there are vaccines in place and if airports are “progressive”, as he put it.  In this context, progressive means offering robust growth incentives. 

Ryanair is renowned for pricing itself out of catastrophes given how price-sensitive demand is in Europe. Coronavirus is no different.

Indeed, unlike volumes, “pricing will take longer to recover.”  O’Leary expects it’ll take until 2023 or 2034 to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“Volumes will return quickly and airports have a role to play in this by discounting to get the volumes back.” While he has said versions of this for 30 years, he even hinted that airports could, after the volumes have returned, raise fees again.

Ryanair CEO: “We don’t need to cooperate with airports – just pass on the savings”

Recovery will inevitably be patchy, directly influenced by government restrictions and consumer confidence.  But O’Leary says demand stimulation can be strongly influenced.

“Rapid recovery for airports will go to those airport operators who are swift and responsive and which come up with the right traffic growth incentives.” 

This is especially the case for summer 2021 and 2022, he believes. 

“We have to make aircraft allocation decisions for S21.  We’re finalising our schedules, that’s why we’re in active discussion with progressive airports.”

“Stansted and Manchester get it”, O’Leary said, likewise “airports in Eastern and Central Europe, in Italy, Beauvais [a new base that opens in January 2021]…”  Growth at such airports – and others like them – for next summer is probably assured. 

And Italy is very likely to get another Ryanair base for S21, O’Leary said, adding to the 16 it already has in the country.  Like Beauvais for Paris, perhaps it’s now the time for Treviso for Venice, at which Ryanair had over three million seats in 2019.  Or perhaps it’ll be Turin or Verona.

Dublin, meanwhile, “has a way to go” in terms of incentives, at which point the CEO of daa (Dublin Airport Authority), sitting beside him, raised his eyebrows and grinned. Dublin was Ryanair’s most profitable airport pre-coronavirus.

Ryanair CEO “there’s only one way out of this crisis” (2)

“We don’t need to cooperate with airports – just pass on the savings to us”, O’Leary quipped. Dalton Philips, daa’s CEO, is to the left.


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