Michael O’Leary – we’ll be carrying 200 MILLION passengers every year; TAP in Lisbon to be added to connection deals with Aer Lingus and Norwegian

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  • Airline carrying 14.4m Irish passengers a year
  • Ryanair to carry 12m passengers in and out of Dublin in 2017
  • Believes it will be carrying 200m passengers a year in total by 2024
  • Deals done with Aer Lingus and Norwegian for transferring passengers onto long haul

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says the airline is on course to carry 130m passengers in 12 months – with the Irish carrier revealing that interlining agreements to transfer passengers have been reached with Aer Lingus and Norwegian.

“We’re growing very strongly. We’ll be reporting 120m passengers in the current year to March ’17 but that will be rising to 130m passengers to March ’18,” Mr O’Leary told a press conference in Dublin, ahead of next week’s full financial figures. He told the media that he will be in New York, not Dublin, when those figures are released.

He said full-year results will be in line with expectations, adding: “There’s an ever-widening gap between us and all airlines in Europe. We’re still lowering fares faster than any other airline but thankfully our costs are also declining faster than any other airline as well. We’re continuing to take down unit costs, ex fuel – EasyJet and others are still reporting unit costs still rising.”

And Mr O’Leary said the Ryanair business model of flying to smaller airports has evolved, under Chief Commercial Officer David O’Brien. “We’re operating at 207 airports but more than half of those airports are now primary airports. There’s been a sea change in our business in the last two or three years under David where primary airports in Germany, Spain and Italy are coming to Ryanair for growth as their incumbent carriers decline.

CEO Michael O'Leary poses for Travel Extra at Ryanair press conference, Davenport Hotel, Dublin

CEO Michael O’Leary poses for Travel Extra at Ryanair press conference, Davenport Hotel, Dublin

“That means we’re continuing to build market share – we’re now the number 1 or 2 carrier in almost every European market. In Germany where we’re number three Air Berlin is undergoing restructuring while in Italy where we’re number one Alitalia is restructuring which we believe will be very good for our business.

“We’re growing even faster than we had previously planned. We had originally planned to grow to 180m passengers by 2024 – we’ve now increased that to 200m passengers. I’m pleased to say Ireland is participating in that growth.  Today we are looking at record bookings into all of our Irish operations: 14.4m customers per annum, with those customers saving €1.5bn.”

One massive shift is from point-to-point flights between airports to the transfer market. It now has transfers on its own flights into and out of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, and this week started offering long haul booking on Air Europa flights – but not transfers – on ryanair.com.

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“We believe the connecting flights in Fiumicino is going very well. We’ve seen a big uptake on Italian domestic routes into Rome, connecting onwards… we think as we iron out the wrinkles in this in the next couple of months that it would be logical to begin then to offer connections at Dublin, certainly at Stansted in the next 12 months, and we’d also be looking at that as the basis at which we will offer third party connecting travel. Clearly with the Air Europa announcement yesterday it becomes important. 

He added: “If that [Rome transfers] goes well we’re expecting to roll it out to other airlines in the short haul market.” Dublin and, more likely, Stansted could get the Ryanair to Ryanair transfer service in the next 12 months.

And he said of the Air Europa partnership: “It’s not a connecting service. We now have 20 long haul destinations out of Madrid. We’re working with Air Europa to have it on one ticket, with bags going straight through from Madrid airport. We have 50 short haul routes to and from Madrid, and we now have 20 long haul routes from Madrid. You can now fly with Ryanair into Madrid and onwards with Air Europa to Boston, New York, Miami, Caracas, Bogota, Salvador and all the other exciting places where Michael D Higgins tends to go to on his summer holidays.

“By close of play yesterday we had sold the first 100 long haul flights on Air Europa using the power of the ryanair.com network.”

Air Europa is a precursor to tie-ins with Aer Lingus and Norwegian to transfers short haul Ryanair passengers onto transatlantic routes. Talks are also ongoing with TAP of Portugal.

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David O’Brien said: “We have an [interlining]agreement, we’re just in the technical stages of trying to make it work. We have learned not to predict when an IT programme is going to end. Now we have two companies involved [norwegian and Aer Lingus].”

But he played down the significance at the moment of the move: “We’re flying at around 94pc load factor so it’s low on our priorities … What’s interesting about the connecting proposition over time is how disruptive it can be. We’ve identified in Bergamo [near Milan]that even on our own network that 300 new routes could be created in an airport that practically didn’t exist 15 years ago. That’s not gone unnoticed by other long haul airlines who are talking to us. … [for them]it’s a just add water, instant hub in effect what’s going on in Frankfurt or Amsterdam.”

Video highlights from the conference:

  • There is going to be a hard Brexit & Flights could stop on March 19 2019 (watch here)
  • Britain has nothing to negotiate with (watch here)
  • Britain will have to adhere to ECJ to keep open skies (watch here)
  • Ireland has no influence on Brexit (watch here)
  • There is a real prospect flights will be halted (watch here)
  • He supports parallel runway at Dublin airport (watch here)
  • Europe will use aviation as a pressure point to bring home implications of Brexit to England’s electorate (watch here)
  • Everybody in the British Government is running away from the implications of Brexit (watch here)
  • 100 Air Europe flights were sold in the first day of the new partnership and Lisbon has joined the list of airports where Ryanair wil offer connections with TAP (watch here)
  • Ryanair employees work under Irish contracts because it is the law and not because Ireland is a tax haven, in fact personal taxes in Ireland are higher than most of the countries where Ryanair operates (watch here)
  • There will be no shortage of candidates for CEO of the DAA (watch here)
  • Alitalia restructure will be good for Ryanair (watch here)
  • Brexit will force breakup of IAG (watch here)
  • Britain is strong in terms of volume not price (watch here)
  • Ryanair’s passenger target raised from 180m to 200m passengers by 2024 (watch here)
  • Irish bookings are 1pc ahead of last year (watch here)
  • He talked up Ryanair’s Erasmus Student initiative (watch here)
  • He endorsed Leo Varadkar in the race for leadership of Fine Gael (watch here)
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