Europe’s biggest low-cost airline, Ryanair, has warned that its losses for the year to March 31 will be at the lower end of its forecast.
The Dublin-based airline said it expected pre-exceptional losses for the financial year just ended to be between 350 and 400 million euros. He previously gave a range of 250-450 million euros for the period.
It also said passenger numbers had recovered to 97 million for the year from 27.5 million for the year to March 31, 2021, but were still well below the pre-pandemic annual figure of 149 million.
Chief Executive Michael O’Leary has warned that the recovery of Europe’s airline industry has slowed in recent months, due to lockdowns imposed at the end of last year to tackle the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, then the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As people have started to fly in large numbers again, Ryanair has kept ticket prices low outside of peak periods to encourage people to book, O’Leary said last week.
Mark Simpson, aviation analyst at Goodbody, said the changes to Ryanair’s financial guidance were “slightly disappointing”, but added that investors’ attention “remains on the build-up of demand over the past two coming months” as the peak spring and summer season begins.
O’Leary predicted a rapid recovery over the next 12 months on the back of pent-up travel demand, as he expects Ryanair to carry more than 150 million passengers and return to profitability, in part because is well protected against rising oil prices.
The airline said on Monday it had covered 80% of its projected fuel needs over the next 12 months.
Ryanair has one of the strongest balance sheets in the airline industry and its net debt has fallen from €2.3 billion to €1.5 billion in the 12 months to the end of March.
Its shares fell 1% in morning trading in Dublin, bringing their decline since the start of the year to around 11%.
Its planes were 87% full in March. Meanwhile, its low-cost Hungarian rival, Wizz Air, reported load factors of 86%.
Bernstein analyst Alex Irving said the numbers showed “passengers were still booking and flying despite the war in Ukraine.”
Ryanair will announce its annual results on May 16.