Ryanair this morning plunged to a €306m (£222.6m) loss as the Irish carrier continued to suffer “the most challenging year in its history”.
The Irish carrier said that passenger numbers were down almost 80 per cent to just 8m people over the three month period.
As a result, it said it was reducing its full year capacity targets to 26m-30m passengers, down from the 35m previously guided.
The budget flier said that it was on course for a record loss of €850m and €950m as a result of new coronavirus restrictions across the continent.
That’s almost five times worse than its previous record loss, which came back in 2009.
Shares in the carrier fell 1.2 per cent in this morning’s trading.
However, Ryanair took a bullish outlook on its recovery chances, predicting a rapid comeback when controls are lifted.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary called on the EU to copy the UK’s vaccination rollout programme in order to get flying back.
He predicted a return to short-haul flying across Europe by June, saying that the carrier was already seeing strong forward bookings.
The airline is forecasting a return to 25 per cent capacity from April to June, and 50 to 70 per cent from July to September.
Ryanair sees opportunities to expand in Europe
Much like Easyjet – whose seven plane slot portfolio at Stansted Ryanair recently took over – the carrier is confident that there will be opportunities to grow its network across Europe in the coming months.
“We expect intra-European capacity to be significantly reduced for the next few years, which will create growth opportunities for Ryanair to take advantage of recovery growth incentives”, it said.
Richard Flood, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said that despite the current gloom, the future was bright for the airline.
“Ryanair is not a business to let a crisis go to waste and it is using the current weak operating environment to negotiate the best deals it can with airports across Europe.
“In doing so, the airline operator is putting itself in an even stronger competitive position for the future.”
To speed the recovery process, the carrier said it had increased its order of the newly-cleared Boeing 737 Max to 210 aircraft.
It is also the beneficiary of one of the most healthy balance sheets in the industry, with €3.5bn in cash at the end of the December.
Unlike many fellow players, the vast majority – 80 per cent – of its fleet remains unencumbered.
A spokesperson for the carrier said: “As soon as the Covid-19 virus recedes – and it will over the coming months as EU Govts accelerate vaccine rollouts – Ryanair and its partner airports will rapidly restore schedules, recover lost traffic, help the nations of Europe to reboot their tourism industry, and create jobs for young people across the cities and beaches of the EU.
“We take some comfort from the success of the UK vaccine programme which is on target to vaccinate almost 50 per cent of the UK population (30m) by the end of March. The EU now needs to step up the slow pace of its rollout programme to match the UK’s performance.”