O’Leary said in an AGM statement that Ryanair would create 5,000 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew, and engineers over the next 5 years. The company this week opened a new €50 million aviation training center in Dublin and is plotting to open two other centers in Spain and Portugal.
The hiring spree would reverse the 3,000 layoffs made at the start of the pandemic. Like all airlines, Ryanair was hit hard by heavy restrictions on international air travel for much of the last 18 months. Restrictions are now beginning to ease and Ryanair predicted a strong bounce back in demand.
Ryanair upgraded forecasts for growth over the next 5 years. The operator is now projecting passenger numbers will grow by 50%, rather than 33%, putting it on course to fly 225m passengers annually by 2026.
The Irish operator plans to open 10 new bases at airports across Europe this year, taking advantage of what O’Leary called the “slot opportunities that are being vacated by competitor airlines who have collapsed or significantly reduced their fleet sizes.”
The expansion will be underpinned by Ryanair’s new fleet of B737 Gamechanger aircrafts, which are low cost and low emission. Ryanair expects to take delivery of 210 Gamechangers over the next half decade.
“The performance of the B737 Gamechanger aircraft this summer has exceeded our expectations,” O’Leary said. “Operational reliability, fuel consumption, and lower CO2 emissions have so far exceeded guidelines with very positive passenger and crew feedback to these new, more fuel efficient, quieter aircraft.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered an unprecedented blow to Europe’s aviation and tourism industries. Only Ryanair has used this crisis to place significantly increased aircraft orders, to expand our airport partnerships, and to secure lower operating costs so that we can pass on even lower fares to our guests, so that together with our airport partners, we can recover strongly from the Covid pandemic and deliver higher than expected growth in both traffic and jobs over the next 5 years.”
Ryanair’s plans to expand come days after rival Easyjet announced plans to raise £1.2bn to fund a post-COVID expansion. The fundraising plans came after an audacious takeover attempt by low cost rival Wizz Air.