Shares in Ryanair are flying today after it announced that it now expects to fly 225m passengers a year by March 2026, a 25m hike on its previous target.
By the midmorning, shares were up 6.7 per cent.
In a statement ahead of today’s AGM, the Irish carrier said that it now expected to see traffic growth of 50 per cent – compared to pre-Covid levels – up from past estimates of 33 per cent.
For the last full year of flying before the pandemic struck, Ryanair carried a record 149m passengers. This year, as a result of continuing restrictions and lengthy lockdowns, it is targeting 100m passengers.
The growth will be driven by the delivery of 210 new Boeing 737 Max jets over the next five years.
It said that the new planes would allow the carrier to accelerate its growth “as opportunities open up at primary and secondary airports all over Europe, particularly where legacy carriers have failed or reduced fleet sizes as a result of Covid and state aid”.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “With these new deliveries, Ryanair will open 10 new bases across Europe this year as we work with airport partners to help them recover traffic & jobs post Covid, and take up slot opportunities that are being vacated by competitor airlines who have collapsed or significantly reduced their fleet sizes.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered an unprecedented blow to Europe’s aviation and tourism industries”, he added.
“Only Ryanair has used this crisis to place significantly increased aircraft orders, to expand our airport partnerships, and to secure lower operating costs so that we can pass on even lower fares to our guests, so that together with our airport partners, we can recover strongly from the Covid pandemic and deliver higher than expected growth in both traffic and jobs over the next 5 years.”
O’Leary has been typically bullish in recent weeks over the carrier’s prospects, saying it is outpacing all of its rivals in the UK and Europe.
The carrier topped its own forecasts for passenger numbers in August, and is now calling for a total relaxing of travel restrictions.