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Ryanair profits soar as CEO warns on Boeing delays

 (PA)
(PA)

The boss of Ryanair today took aim at Europe’s beleaguered air traffic control system as profits at the budget airline soared to nearly two billion euros.

CEO Michael O’Leary called on the EU Commission to “deliver urgent reform of Europe’s inefficient ATC system by protecting overflights during national strikes,” and complained that there had been “zero action” by the Commission.

“We again call on Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to defend the single market for air travel by protecting 100% of overflights during national ATC strikes,” O’Leary said, adding that thousands of avoidable flight cancellations had taken place after 67 days of traffic control strikes in 2023.

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Ryanair today posted bumper revenues of €13.4 billion (£11.5 billion) for the year to the end of March, up by a quarter on last year, while profit after tax leapt 34% to 1.9 billion. Ryanair grew its customer base 9% in the year to 184 million, while its flight load factor climbed one percentage point to 94%.

“Travel demand in Europe is strong and…we will operate our largest ever summer schedule with over 200 new routes,” O’Leary said.

“Our significant cost advantage, strong balance sheet, low-cost airline orders and industry leading reslilience will we believe underpin a decade of profitable growth for Ryanair as we grow to 300 million passengers.”

But the CEO warned it was taking a knock from delays to deliveries of new Boeing aircraft which “could slip further” and said its forecast of 8% traffic growth next year was conditional on Boeing deliveries returning to contracted levels before year-end.

Ryanair could receive only half of what was promised, potentially reducing passenger volumes by 5-10 million, warned Olly Anibaba, analyst at Third Bridge.

“The Boeing delivery delays will be a huge problem for Ryanair,” Onibaba said, adding that airlines were consciously not prioritising load factor to keep fares slightly higher and that Ryanair could offset some of the impact on profits by removing the worst-performing routes from their network.

Ryanair also announced today it had hired former government minister Amber Rudd as a non-executive director.

Rudd, who served as Home Secretary between 2016 and 2018, attracted controversy over her handling of the Windrush scandal, in which the Home Office chartered flights to deport undocumented British subjects who had arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries in the 1940s and 50s. In total, more than 80 deportation flights were chartered by the Home Office during Rudd’s time in government.

The 60-year-old will be joining Ryanair’s board alongside Jinane Laghrari Laabi, a former partner at McKinsey, from the beginning of July.

“These new appointments, which align with our orderly succession plans, further enhance Ryanair’s Board diversity,” O’Leary said.

Rudd is also a non-executive director of London-listed Centrica.