Ryanair will be the first airline to resume flying to Ukraine once it’s safe to do so, said chief executive Michael O’Leary.
The company, who was forced on Thursday to halt all operations following the Kremlin’s invasion, expects sanctions will remain for the foreseeable future.
“We halted all Ukrainian roots until March,” O’Leary said this morning during a press conference. “We do not believe it will be possible to fly over Ukraine for the foreseeable future.”
“We will be the first to return to flying into Ukraine once it’s safe to do so but I suspect it will take probably the summer or maybe next winter.”
O’Leary added that the company is playing its part, keeping fares lower for Ukrainians across Europe to reunite with friends and family as well as delivering humanitarian cargo – the first time the airline is carrying something other than passengers in 30 years.
“We’re offering to take medical supplies and food aid down to our Polish airports,” O’Leary added. “The Poles have been phenomenal in the whole Ukrainian crisis as the Polish airport and military are willing to take all those humanitarian supplies straight off the belly of the aircraft and to the Ukrainian border.”
The conflict and the consequent repercussions on oil, which has gone up to more than $100 per barrel, will pose several challenges to airlines.
“The impact on oil prices is steep,” said O’Leary, while adding Ryanair will be insulated because it has hedged out 80 per cent of fuel needs to March 2023. “Although we do have a 20 per cent [to be bought] and that will cost us probably another €50m over the next 12 months, which is not a huge amount but it certainly makes the post-Covid recovery much more difficult.”
Even though the conflict dealt a big blow to the airline – who was Ukraine’s largest carrier carrying around two million passengers a year, Ryanair believes that airspace closures will make people steer clear of long-haul routes and go back to European short-haul destinations.
“We think long-haul will not be an option and Asia will certainly be much more expensive and harder to get to no-fly zones over Russia, Ukraine and Belarus,” he added. “We think families and people will return to the beaches of Europe – Portugal, Spain and Italy – and we’re trying to capitalise on that.”