DUBLIN (Reuters) -Ryanair has experienced a "sea change" in its confidence in recent weeks, a senior executive said on Thursday, on perceptions that the threat from the Omicron COVID-19 variant is easing and public attitudes to travel are improving. Fares are also likely to rise across the European short-haul sector this summer due to lower available capacity, said Eddie Wilson, chief executive at Ryanair DAC, the largest airline in the Ryanair Group. Wilson did not give specific guidance about Ryanair's prospects, citing reporting restrictions ahead of the company's third-quarter financial results on Jan. 31, but he did say the airline's focus was "all about next summer".
Europe's use it or lose it airport slot rule has not created issues for airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic nor is there any evidence of carriers operating ghost flights because of the rule, a senior European Commission official said on Thursday. "For the current winter scheduling season, the Eurocontrol air traffic has been so far in the range of 73-78% of 2019 and the annual 2022 air traffic is forecast to be at 88% of 2019 levels," Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker told reporters. The EU executive's comments came a day after a spat between Lufthansa and Ryanair over the rule, which the Commission has relaxed to allow major carriers to preserve airport access during the crisis despite a sharp drop in traffic.
Two of Europe's largest airlines have revived a spat over the environmental impact of Europe's take-off slot rules, with Ryanair accusing Germany's Lufthansa of exploiting climate concerns to stifle competition. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told a newspaper last month that the airline still had to operate tens of thousands of additional flights in the winter to comply with European Union rules on slot usage, resulting in surplus emissions. Ryanair, Europe's largest budget carrier, hit back at the claims on Wednesday, saying Lufthansa was trying to hamper rivals in the months-old dispute over so-called ghost flights.