There’s still plenty of space to grow in Europe

Marion Dakers
RYANAIR is massive in Poland. One of the many mildly interesting facts to emerge from the airline’s results presentation is that Ryanair has leap-frogged flag carrier Lot, which has been forced to take an EU rescue loan, to become the country’s first choice in aviation. It’s a pattern that is repeating across Ryanair’s European heartland.

Ryanair says it is in talks with 75 airports about increasing flight frequency, and from Germany to Greece it sees opportunities to seize market share from struggling rivals.

Deputy chief executive Howard Miller, tongue firmly in cheek, said yesterday that Ryanair caters for the “poor and oppressed”, picking up traffic among economic migrants shuttling back and forth between home and work nations.

Its focus on the cheap end of the market still has plenty of space to grow, despite Ryanair’s note of caution about the European economy that several analysts said was overly modest. The International Air Transport Association expects traffic in Europe to rise four per cent a year until 2016. And even in the UK, where cost-conscious flyers already use budget carriers for an estimated 58 per cent of intra-European flights, Ryanair continues to gain passengers.

Ryanair’s policy of charging its customers for everything from beer to baggage might not win any devoted followers of its brand philosophy, but its dogged approach to ancillaries gives it market-leading margins.

The firm boasts that it has returned more than £1bn to investors since 2007. With another special dividend possible in 2015, Ryanair’s shares look set to ascend alongside its ever-busier Polish planes.