Despite third wave fears, Ryanair expects to fly at 80% capacity in Europe this summer

Mar 25, 2021

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Despite the threat of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic spreading across Europe, Ryanair is planning on ramping up services this summer.

On Thursday, the low-cost carrier said that at the start of this summer, it expects to fly about 50% of pre-pandemic capacity levels. By the middle to the end of the summer, Ryanair expects that capacity number to jump to 80% during the period of July to September.

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In anticipation of the increase in summer traffic, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said on Wednesday that the airline is adding flights within and from destinations in the U.K., following the country’s successful vaccination rollout to-date. It’s also adding flights in sunny holiday destinations — where Brits are expected to flock to once restrictions are lifted — such as Greece and Spain.

“Everyone is getting very panicked at the moment over international travel but it’s only the middle of March,”  O’Leary said. “As the school holidays start through June into July, that will coincide with very high vaccination rates — not just in the U.K., but also in Europe.”

And in order to fly those passengers this summer, Ryanair is hoping to turn to its long-awaited fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The airline said on Wednesday that it expects to take delivery of 16 MAX aircraft in time for the summer travel season — eight in April, eight in May and none in June. It had originally expected to take delivery of 24 of the aircraft for summer 2021.

The beleaguered 737 MAX aircraft has long been on Ryanair’s radar. In December 2020, Ryanair boosted its order for the “gamechanger” aircraft by 75 — bringing its total MAX aircraft on order to 210. The MAX was recertified to enter service in Europe and the U.K. in January. The move followed two deadly crashes that resulted in the entire worldwide fleet being grounded in 2019.

Related: Ryanair boosts Boeing with new order for ‘gamechanger’ Boeing 737 MAX

In February, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled England’s roadmap out of lockdown. In it, he detailed that international travel could resume from 17 May at the earliest, though that date will depend on the findings from the Global Travel Taskforce. That group was set to release their latest findings by 12 April, however, Johnson has said that he will update the country by 5 April.

In a precautionary move this week, the U.K. government laid out plans that it could delay the restart of international travel until July. The draft laws, which are expected to face a vote on Thursday, could see anyone who attempts to leave the U.K. for a non-essential reason face a £5,000 fine.

Related: Ban on international travel extended to July over fears of third wave

However, the 30 June date is merely nothing more than legislative convenience. If the government and Global Travel Taskforce finds travel can return before that date, it will be permitted to do so.

Given the U.K.’s successful vaccination rollout programme, O’Leary played down the notion that the virus’ third wave could inhibit summer travel. Additionally, he said that ongoing government restrictions — especially as they relate to long-haul travel — will allow Ryanair to capitalise on travellers who want to get away but not have to go too far from home. As such, O’Leary expects Ryanair’s short-haul European route network to soar.

Ryanair said that it has enough cash to last it through summer without having to raise any additional funds, according to Bloomberg.

Featured photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

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