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Coronavirus: Ryanair expects €1bn profits despite 48% collapse in March traffic

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Ryanair aircrafts are parked on the tarmac before the closure of Brussels South Charleroi Airport, Belgium. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Ryanair (RYA.L) expects to report up to €1bn in profits over the past year, despite a 48% collapse in passenger numbers in March over the coronavirus.

The budget airline group, which includes Austrian airline Lauda, said widespread flight bans and travel restrictions mean its flight numbers are now just 1% of normal levels. It is running around 20 flights a day, compared with around 2,500 before the COVID-19 crisis.

The wider airline industry faces one of the biggest crises in its history, sparking calls for government bailouts in Britain and around the world.

But the company announced on Friday it still expected its profits to fall within previous guidance for its 2020 financial year, which ran to 31 March. It now expects pre-tax profits of between €950m ($1.03bn, £832m) and €1bn ($1.08bn, £875m), at the lower end of expected levels.

Read more: BA expected to furlough tens of thousands of staff

It said: “This is due to the response of EU governments to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which have since mid-March included widespread flight bans and travel restrictions which have closed Europe's skies to all but a tiny number of rescue and medical flights.”

The Ryanair group saw traffic in March fall by 48% from 10.9 million passengers in 2019 to 5.7 million passengers last month. It meant Ryanair’s full-year traffic came in at 149 million passengers.

“The airline expects its fleet to remain largely grounded for at least April and May,” it added.

“Ryanair Group Airlines continue to work with EU governments to maintain minimum flight links for emergency reasons, and to operate rescue and medical flights when requested to do so.”

The company has already slashed all pay including senior managers by 50% for April and May in a bid to cut costs as its income has collapsed.

It said it was working with workforces and unions to look at whether EU government’s “payroll support mechanisms” could help save jobs and cut costs further. It has also suspended share buybacks and frozen recruitment.