Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary says flights could be free in a decade

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary poses with his company's logo projected on his face at a press conference in August 2016.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary poses with his company's logo projected on his face at a press conference in August 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Ryanair chief  Michael O’Leary says flights with the popular Irish budget carrier could be free within a decade, according to a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Leary's ambition is to offer zero fares, with the airline making its money from sharing revenues with airports where it had attracted passengers, the newspaper said.

Speaking in London at the Airport Operators Association conference, he said the increasingly attractive deals being offered to his airline by European airports, as well as the possible reduction or abolition of taxes such as air passenger duty (APD), would eventually allow his airline to give away flights.

He said: “The challenge for us in the future is to keep driving air fares down. I have this vision that in the next five to 10 years that the air fares on Ryanair will be free, in which case the flights will be full, and we will be making our money out of sharing the airport revenues; of all the people who will be running through airports, and getting a share of the shopping and the retail revenues at airports.”

The Irish airline expects to carry 119 million passengers this year and is growing its aircraft fleet rapidly, with capacity to pass 200 million by 2024, reported the Guardian.

Most of that growth, O’Leary said, would come from “taking price sensitive passengers off incumbents like Air Berlin in Germany, Lot in Poland and Alitalia in Italy”.

He added: “I think it will happen. It just won’t happen at Heathrow or those big hub airports. But most of the other airports who are looking for big traffic growth, that process is already starting to happen, lowering airport fees and some of the charges.”

O’Leary said: “If (air passenger duty) is gone: at many airports I’m paying more than £20 already with APD and fees, if I start getting that back, why not? I’m doing seat sales this week at £4 and I’m paying the £13 APD – I’m paying you to fly with me. Twenty pounds equates to S$35. 

“Instead of promotional tickets being £9 or £5 they will be free.”

Average fares on Ryanair last year were €46 (£69), including one checked bag, and Ryanair has said they will fall by 10 per cent to 15 per cent this year. About a quarter of the airline's income is from add-ons such as car hire and inflight sales