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Ryanair warns it will only breakeven in 2022 as outlook darkens

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Last month, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, above, said he was confident that travel will open up in the summer. Photo: Reuters
Last month, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, above, said he was confident that travel will open up in the summer. Photo: Reuters

Ryanair (RYA.L) said it expects a net loss for the 2021 financial year (ending 31 March 2021) to be slightly less than its previous estimates, but lockdown restrictions and a slow EU rollout of the COVID vaccine means in 2022 it will just about break even. 

Shares in the company were down almost 1% on Wednesday morning as markets opened in London before paring losses and ticking up 0.6%.

Just last month, the airline had expanded the schedule for its summer flights, which includes 26 new routes, in hopes that travel will open up soon amid a successful vaccine rollout in the UK, even as coronavirus cases were rising across Europe.

Now, however, it expects "to report a pre-exceptional FY21 net loss" of between €800m (£687m, $949m) and €850m, slightly better than the previously guided range of €850m to €950m.  

Ryanair's stock dipped on Wednesday morning before ticking u 0.6%. Chart: Yahoo Finance
Ryanair's stock dipped on Wednesday morning before ticking up 0.6%. Chart: Yahoo Finance

Its full-year traffic was 27.5 million passengers, down from 149 million, due to flight cancellations and travel restrictions. It expects this to be towards the lower end of its previously guided range of 80 million to 120 million passengers this year.

This is due to "easter travel restrictions/lockdowns and a delayed traffic recovery due to the slow rollout in the EU of COVID-19 vaccines"

It added that "while it is not possible (at this time) to provide meaningful FY22 [2022] profit guidance, we do not share the recent optimism of certain analysts as we believe that the outcome for FY22 is currently close to breakeven."

Year-end cash was over €3.15bn, and it said more than 84% of its fleet of 420 B737 aircraft are unencumbered.

WATCH: What is the UK's future on testing, travel and vaccine passports?

READ MORE: Ryanair expands summer holiday schedule even as Brits face fines for travel

Ryanair next market update will be on 17 May. This is the earliest date international travel in the UK could reopen, as per UK prime minister Boris Johnson's four-step roadmap out of lockdown.

And while Johnson said on Monday he is “hopeful” this would happen, he added: “I do not wish to give hostages to fortune, or to underestimate the difficulties we are seeing in some of the destination countries that people might want to go to. We don’t want to see the virus reimported to this country."

There is a chance travel opens up with a traffic light system, where destinations are divided into green, amber and red. Green countries would mean people could return to the UK with no restrictions. Amber ones would likely mean people having to quarantine at home, and red ones would require a 10-day quarantine in a hotel. 

A red list of some 40 countries already exists.

Last month, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary said he was confident that travel will open up in the summer. He told Sky News he is expecting countries across Europe, including the UK, to stop "locking people down" from June.

“We’re reasonably confident that there will be unrestricted holiday travel for British families going to European beach resorts,” he said.

He added that the airline expects to be operating over 2,000 flights per week during July, August and September 2021 and that the decision to expand its schedule and routes was not a gamble.

WATCH: Should you book a holiday in 2021?

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