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Ryanair targets cash-strapped holidaymakers as it posts biggest ever first half profit of €1.37 billion

Ryanair has bounced back after Covid hit its results in 2020 and 2021  (PA Wire)
Ryanair has bounced back after Covid hit its results in 2020 and 2021 (PA Wire)

Ryanair is continuing its quest to become the Aldi of the skies as it brushed off concerns about the impact of slowing economies and higher household bills on its business model to post record half-year profits.

The airline said it had made €1.37 billion (£1.2 billion) in profits after tax in the six months to the end of September, well ahead of its previous first-half record of €1.29 billion in the same period in 2017.

The results come after a bumper summer season, reversing a €48 million loss last year thanks to booming passenger numbers.

A record 95.1 million people travelled with Ryanair in the first half as holidaymakers returned to flying following two years of restrictions.

The figure was 11% more than the 85.7 million who flew with the airline in the same period in 2019, the year before Covid struck, grounding air travel.

The Irish airline also reported on Monday that revenue hit €6.62 billion in the six-month period, from €2.15 billion in 2021.

“Concerns about the impact of recession and rising consumer price inflation on Ryanair’s business model have been greatly exaggerated in recent months,” boss Michael O’Leary said.

“We expect these strong fundamentals will continue to underpin robust traffic and average fare growth for the next 18-months at least.”

The Dublin-based company said it will offer 10% more seats this winter than pre-Covid, compared with capacity cuts of about 20% at most of its European competitors.

Even as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, O’Leary predicted that consumers will trade down to the lowest available air fares rather than stop holidaying altogether, enabling Ryanair to mirror the success discount retailers Aldi and Lidl have had as shoppers tightened their purse strings.

It now expects to fly 168 million passengers this financial year, up from its previous prediction of 166.5 million, significantly ahead of its previous annual record of 149 million.

While the winter will be loss-making, Ryanair expects an after-tax profit of between €1 billion and €1.2 billion for the full year to 31 March, though that forecast remains “hugely dependent” on there being no adverse shocks in the market, the company said.

Last year the airline’s winter period was hit by the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant which restricted Christmas travel.

And O’Leary warned that the company’s longer-term growth could be constrained if Boeing fails to deliver a promised 51 737 MAX planes in time for next summer.