Budget airline Ryanair (RYA) lifted its full year traffic forecast and is eying breakeven as bookings rally with passengers taking advantage of discounted airfares.
The Irish airline, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, said it expected to fly between 90 million and 100 million passengers in its financial year to 31 March 2022, up from an earlier estimated range of between 80 million and 100 million.
The airline flew 8.1 million passengers in the three months to 30 June, the airline’s fiscal first quarter, up from 500,000 a year ago during the teeth of pandemic lockdown. Ryanair flew 27.5 million passengers in the year to 31 March 2021, down from a pre-Covid peak of 149 million the year before.
The upbeat tone of the announcement was welcomed by the market, lifting the share price 4% to €16.36, with investors relieved that the sea of losses may be coming to an end. Ryanair expects to be close to breaking even this year even though Covid-19 disruption meant its latest quarterly losses increased.
The company reported an after-tax loss of €273 million for the three months to the 30 June 2021, better than the €283 million consensus loss forecast by analysts.
BRIGHTER SKIES AHEAD
The airline expects to have flown around nine million passengers through July, at the top of a previous forecast range of seven to nine million, with up to 109 million predicted to fly during August.
However, chief executive Michael O’Leary tempered recovery enthusiasm in a statement, saying that it remained impossible to provide a meaningful profit forecast for the financial year to end-March 2022 with the reopening of many European destinations still fraught with risk of new infection outbreaks which could lead to the tightening of travel restrictions.
O’Leary said Covid-19 had ‘continued to wreak havoc on our business during Q1,’ with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June.
‘Significant uncertainty around travel green lists (particularly in the UK) and extreme government caution in Ireland meant that Q1 bookings were close-in and at low fares.’
Investors will take heart from Ryanair’s strong balance sheet, however, one of the strongest in the airline industry. The budget flyer said it had cash reserves of €4.06 billion, up from €3.15 billion at the end of March following a €1.2 billion bond sale in May.