Ryanair passenger bookings clouded once summer boom is done

Ryanair posted a profit for the first quarter through June that beat analyst estimates. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Ryanair Holdings said passengers remain cautious about booking, clouding its prospects beyond a summer travel boom in which it's suffering less disruption than many of its rivals.

Europe's largest discount airline posted a profit for the first quarter through June that beat analyst estimates, and is sticking with plans to lift capacity beyond pre-Covid levels even as other carriers slash timetables to cope with a staffing crisis after weeks of delays and cancellations, it said on Monday (July 25).

While there are signs of continuing pent-up demand, bookings continue to come much closer to the date of travel than before the coronavirus pandemic, giving limited visibility into demand for September and "almost zero" for the winter, when Ryanair tends to lose money.

It still expects to fly 165 million people in the year that began on April 1, and will seek to fill up planes with low fares. "The recovery into the winter is fragile and is very subject to whatever the news flows are around Covid and Ukraine," chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said in an interview.

Shares of Ryanair traded lower in the morning in Dublin, where it is based, taking the stock's decline this year to 16 per cent. The carrier posted adjusted net income of 170 million euros for the fiscal first quarter, compared with a year-earlier loss of 273 million euros. Analysts had forecast earnings of 150 million euros, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Ryanair is raising capacity 15 per cent above the 2019 level this summer in a bid to win market share. The Irish company has benefited from hanging on to crew and aircraft in preparation for a rebound, while the smaller airports from which it typically operates have suffered less from congestion than major hubs such as London's Heathrow and Amsterdam's Schiphol, Bernstein analyst Alex Irving said in a note.

Ryanair said it has also reached agreement with unions on reversing pay cuts for more than 80 per cent of its pilots and about 70 per cent of cabin crew, and expects to conclude agreements with the rest soon. It expects to take delivery of another 50 Boeing 737 Max jets ahead of summer 2023, after receiving 73 planes from a 210-aircraft order for this summer.

Leases on Airbus A320 jets at the Austrian Lauda arm have been extended in the absence of an agreement to buy more jets from Boeing.

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