Ryanair has revealed plans to increase the number of its flights to 80% of pre-pandemic levels by July, as the airline’s chief executive criticised UK government for warning against booking overseas summer holidays this year.
Michael O’Leary on Wednesday said he was “very confident” that Britons would be “going to the beaches of Europe” and that Ryanair would have a “strong summer” thanks to the UK and EU’s rapid, albeit politically fraught, vaccination programmes.
The Irish carrier will run about half the number of flights it flew before the pandemic in 2019 from April to June, but will step up its schedule to 80% during July or August, o 90% if there is sufficient demand.
Its optimism for a rapid return of international travel contrasted with theUK government’s cautious view. Di lunedi, Helen Whately, the minister for social care, triggered a sharp decline in the value of UK travel companies’ shares when said it felt “premature to be booking international holidays at the moment”.
“It isn’t,” O’Leary responded during a press conference on Wednesday, arguing that vaccination rates justified easing travel restrictions. As of Monday, quasi 54% of UK adults have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, although the proportion of EU citizens who have been vaccinated is significantly lower.
O’Leary said: “If on the one hand Helen Whateley’s government are rightly trumpeting the success of their vaccination programme, if 80% of the UK population has been vaccinated by the end of May, I would find it very difficult for any politician to raise an argument over why they shouldn’t travel on holidays to the beaches of Europe – as they did last year – in relative freedom.”
EasyJet, Tui and Thomas Cook had also reported a jump in summer bookings after the government last month revealed plans for easing restrictions, including lifting a ban on international travel for leisure on 17 Maggio. O’Leary said Ryanair bookings were still “reasonably quiet” up until the end of June, but added that there was “reasonably strong and sustained demand” for the school summer holiday period.
Ryanair also revealed the launch of 26 new routes from airports including London Stansted, Edimburgo, Liverpool and Birmingham. The airline has returned after an 11-year gap to Belfast’s City airport, which was hit hard by the collapse of Flybe at the start of the pandemic.
O’Leary said opportunities to extend Ryanair’s reach in Germany were in part dependent on Lufthansa’s next move. Il German flag-carrier received billions of euros in aid from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to help it through the pandemic.
In his latest criticism of the rival airline, O’Leary said Lufthansa was “reeling round Europe like a drunken uncle at a wedding hoovering up state subsidies”. “There’s no government in Europe that Lufthansa hasn’t tapped for state subsidies," Ha aggiunto.
Ryanair has long argued that flying brings a low risk of transmission of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, but O’Leary said the airline would retain its mandatory face mask policy until spring 2022 unless governments in Europe relax their guidance.