- IATA/ICAO code:
- Airline type:
- low cost carrier
- Dublin Airport, London Stansted Airport, Milan Bergamo Airport
- Year of foundation:
- Air group:
- Ryanair Group
- Eddie Wilson
While worldwide flight cancellations and delays have become the common denominator, another factor that adds to the list is the lack of cheaper airfares. Irish low-cost airline Ryanair’s trademark was once its €1 ($1.03) and €10 ($10.32) fare, but given the current global circumstances, the company’s chief executive low-cost, Michael O’Leary, said such iconic brands would not be seen anymore.
His observation comes from inflation and rising fuel costs, a continued result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, coupled with growing passenger demand, further tightening pressure on operational standards in the aviation industry. O’Leary said:
“There’s no doubt that at the bottom of the market, our really cheap promotional fares – the one euro fares, the €0.99 fares, even the €9.99 fares – I don’t think you’ll see these rates over the next few years.”
The numbers on the rise
Airline ticket prices to mainland Europe this summer are up nearly a third from pre-pandemic prices, or even last year’s prices. Airline ticket prices for some cities jumped more than 250% this week compared to the same period in 2019. In July last year, Ryanair launched €5.92 one-way tickets to the depart from London-Stansted to popular European destinations including Athens, Lisbon, Faro, Madrid and Seville.
Compared to today’s prices, the cheapest airfare to the cities mentioned would be a flight from London-Stansted to Faro for €71.02, followed by a one-way flight to Lisbon at €153.88 €, while to Athens would be €223.70 and €153.86. to Madrid. Before the pandemic, an average family of four would likely pay around €331.38 for a flight from London Heathrow or Gatwick to Istanbul. These plane ticket prices were then a real bargain. At present, the price of the same family would more than double to around €672.22 on average.
O’Leary sees Ryanair air fares rising to €50 over the next five years. Photo: Ryanair
A need to fly
Although the aviation industry has long been criticized for its high contribution to climate change, the head of the low-cost carrier says road and maritime transport are the main contributors to carbon emissions. According to O’Leary, airlines like his have made significant efforts to decarbonize aviation, including investing in more fuel-efficient planes such as the Boeing 737 MAX 8. aircraft, O’Leary remains convinced that passengers will continue to fly as it becomes a practical necessity.
However, with prices not dropping any time soon, the airline chief suggests passengers will start looking for lower-cost options rather than cutting flights, noting:
“We think people will continue to fly frequently. But I think people are going to become a lot more price sensitive and so my outlook on life is that people are going to trade their many millions.”
Ironically, the current situation favors the budget carrier, as in past decades when airfare prices got cheaper as the number of flights increased. At the time, passengers preferred to take short breaks abroad, and airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air competed to offer low-cost, no-frills service. Now that flying with full-service carriers has become a real luxury, the Irish low-cost carrier and its low-cost competitors will again be the ideal choice for passengers.
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Not without struggles
As demand for air travel rebounded, staff shortages at airlines and airports led to cancellations and delays. While Ryanair could win against its rivals when it comes to airfare prices, the budget carrier still faces the same operational difficulties that are holding back the global aviation industry. In the first six months of 2022, Ryanair canceled 0.3% of flights, compared to British Airways at 3.5% and easyJet at 2.8%.
Ryanair is based in Dublin but operates hundreds of routes to and from the UK. Photo: Getty Images
Yet O’Leary says Ryanair has handled the problems better than other airlines due to its decision to start recruiting and training cabin and flight crew last November when the Omicron variant was still affecting travel international airlines. However, the budget carrier faces one more protracted problem than its competitors: industrial walkouts. The latest to threaten Ryanair is the five-month strike by its Spanish cabin crew.
Although the airline says its operations will not be significantly affected, continued industry actions surrounding the airline have become the norm. This could mean that even if Ryanair attracts more passengers, it may not be able to retain their loyalty given its operational difficulties and reputation.