Ryanair Holdings Plc issued a guardedly optimistic outlook for the vital summer season, cautioning that a strong bookings trend could still be disrupted by a number of factors including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Europe’s biggest discount airline reported a narrower loss for the 12 months through March in a statement Monday, while saying only that it’s targeting “reasonable profitability” this fiscal year.
“We expect pricing to be slightly down in the first quarter, we’re pricing down to get our planes full again,” Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary told Bloomberg Television. “We’re seeing a very strong recovery into the summer, but I’d be very cautious on next winter for the moment.”
The removal of Covid travel curbs is encouraging people to fly again, though Ryanair’s bookings are coming much closer to the date of departure than before the pandemic. The airline said demand remains vulnerable to adverse news regarding both the virus and Ukraine, making it “impractical, if not impossible, to provide a sensible or accurate profit guidance range.”
Shares of Ryanair traded 3.4% lower at 13.13 euros as of 9:02 a.m. in Dublin, where the company is based.
The carrier had a net loss of 355 million euros ($369 million) in the year ended March 31 as travel restarted, after previously saying the loss would be within a range of 350 million euros to 400 million euros.
O’Leary said too many airlines have been talking up the strength of the recovery and reiterated that a “reasonable profit” this year would be somewhere near pre-Covid levels of around 1 billion euros.
Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan said in a separate interview that it’s too early to include a number in official guidance, with so many unknowns and no visibility over bookings next winter, the company’s fiscal second half.
Ryanair expects to receive a further 55 Boeing Co. 737 Max jets during its traditional low season, having taken 70 for the summer, swelling capacity at a time when rising energy costs and other price pressures are likely to hit household spending.
Still, O’Leary said Ryanair could benefit should inflationary pressures prompt people to rethink their travel plans.
“In every past recession we’ve grown stronger and faster because people don’t stop flying in a recession, they get more price sensitive,” said O’Leary. “IKEA, Lidl, Ryanair will be the beneficiaries of a downturn, and I would look forward with some optimism to an economic downturn because it would be better for Ryanair’s business.”
While the company reiterated a target of carrying 165 million passengers in the new fiscal year, it could exceed that if load factors recover quickly, Bernstein analyst Alex Irving said in a note to clients.
Ryanair is also looking to return 29 Airbus SE A320 aircraft to leasing firms starting this winter after inheriting them with the purchase of Austrian unit Lauda. It’s currently in discussions with lessors to replace them with as many as 50 previous-generation 737s or A320s, Sorahan said.