Ryanair is expecting to fly 100 million passengers during this financial year after a surge in summer bookings in recent weeks, although it warned that it does not expect to make a profit this year.
The Irish airline increased its passenger forecast to 90-100 million for the 12 months to the end of March 2022, thanks to the coronavirus vaccination programme and the easing of some travel restrictions.
It expects to carry larger numbers of passengers over the summer, almost doubling from 5 million in June to almost 9 million in July, and reaching 10 million in August, provided there are no further setbacks as a result of Covid-19.
However, the company cautioned that it expected to make a small loss or to just break even during the year to March, as it reported that it remained in the red in first quarter of the financial year.
Ryanair reported a loss of €273m (£234m) for three months to the end of June and said that Covid had continued to “wreak havoc” on its business during the period, when most Easter flights were cancelled and there was a slower than expected easing of travel restrictions from EU governments.
The low-cost carrier flew 8.1 million people from April to June this year, up from only 500,000 in 2020, although its losses increased by almost half, up from the €185m loss reported a year earlier.
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “Significant uncertainty around travel green lists (particularly in the UK) and extreme government caution in Ireland meant that Q1 bookings were close-in and at low fares.
“The 1 July rollout of EU digital Covid certificates (DCC) and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to the UK from mid-July has seen a surge in bookings over recent weeks.”
The airline said ticket prices remained lower than pre-Covid levels and it is focusing on the recovery of traffic and tourism across its European network during the summer.
The announcement came only days after Ryanair said it was aiming to recruit 2,000 pilots over the next three years as it tries to rebuild its passenger numbers after the pandemic.
The airline has also started to take delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max aircraft and has ordered more than 200 of the planes.
Ryanair has labelled the Boeing aircraft a “gamechanger” because of its better fuel efficiency and seat capacity, compared with its existing fleet.
While Ryanair and the aviation sector have been hit hard during the pandemic, the airline believes it is well positioned to benefit from the difficulties of its rivals during the crisis, which has resulted in the collapse of European competitors.