Ryanair cuts passenger target and writes off winter travel market

Ryanair has cut its annual passenger target to 50 million, a reduction of 10 million, as Europe’s biggest carrier expects the winter travel market to be a “write-off”.

Ryanair’s previous forecast in July was that it would carry 60 million passengers in the year to the end of March 2021. That was a 20 million reduction on May’s forecast of 80 million, with rising coronavirus case numbers and changing travel restrictions wreaking havoc on customer confidence.

“We are guiding now for about 50 million passengers for the full year to the end of March,” said Michael O’Leary, the chief executive, in an interview with Reuters. “I think the winter of 2020 will essentially be a write-off.”

O’Leary expects to operate at about 5 million passengers per month through the winter, with pricing set to be “aggressively down” to entice travellers.

He said Ryanair was looking at closing more bases and withdrawing capacity from countries that do not have the coronavirus pandemic under control.

On Tuesday, easyJet said it would cut flights after the UK government announced more quarantine measures. Just over a month after expanding its flight schedule to 1,000 flights a day after better than expected demand as travel restrictions were eased, the airline expects to fly slightly less than the 40% of planned capacity in the fourth quarter of the year. EasyJet’s flight schedule is likely to be reduced by 2%.

“We know our customers are as frustrated as we are with unpredictable travel and quarantine restrictions,” said Johan Lundgren, the chief executive of easyJet.

Last month, Ryanair said it was cancelling almost one in five flights scheduled for September and October owing to a drop in bookings, as an increase in coronavirus cases in a number of European countries triggered fresh quarantine restrictions.

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