Ryanair set to sell tickets at a discount in bid to fill its planes over the winter

Ryanair has said its recovery in passenger numbers “will require continuing price stimulation” while revealing improved losses for the first half of its financial year.

Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers reported losses after tax of €48m for the six months to the end of September though its numbers implied a profit of €225m over its second quarter as a COVID vaccine-led reopening of the skies got underway.

The figure represents its first quarterly profit since the pre-pandemic final three months of 2019.

The no-frills airline carried 39.1 million passengers over the six month period – 54% fewer than in the same period of 2019.

It pointed to a strong end to the summer as Ryanair operated over 71,500 flights in October with an 84% load factor – meaning its flights were 84% full.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said that while he expected a “very strong” recovery in load factors heading into the next core summer season, he predicted the looming winter would be “tough”.

He cited little visibility on demand and ticket prices as the airline grappled rising fuel costs – 20% of which are not hedged.

It hoped that its price approach would mean the airline would carry “just over” 100 million people over the year to March.

Ryanair said that, as a result, it expected to report a loss after tax of between €100m and €200m for the period.

It argued it was in a better place than rivals to recover from the coronavirus crisis as it had invested in the “gamechanger” Boeing 737 MAX planes.

Ryanair, which expects to have 65 of its 210 planes operating by next summer, claimed that every passenger who switched to Ryanair from legacy airlines “reduces their CO2 emissions by up to 50% per flight”.

The US-made aircraft offer 4% more seats but consume 16% less fuel.

Mr O’Leary last month raised Ryanair’s five-year growth target to fly 225 million passengers a year by 2026, from 200 million.

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