Ryanair has recorded a record annual loss and said that it will at best break even in the coming year as it navigates huge uncertainty around the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and how much travel-starved passengers will pay for summer flights.
Most Challenging 12 Months In Ryanair's History
Europe's largest discount airline said that the COVID-19 pandemic made the 12 months to the end of March of 2021 the most challenging in its history, forcing it to slash capacity by 80% and shed 1,000 jobs.
Almost Zero Visibility For The Rest Of The Year
And while it has seen a "dramatic springback in bookings" in recent weeks, it has almost zero visibility for the rest of the year, group chief executive Michael O'Leary said.
"The likely outturn...is that we are looking at something between a very small loss and break-even for the next 12 months but there are a lot of moving parts and there is a lot of uncertainty," O'Leary said in a video presentation.
"Most of the uncertainty revolves around the timing of the recovery and the fares that people will pay into the key June, July, August, September travel period," he said.
The airline recorded a record annual after-tax loss of €815 million in its financial year to March 31, which was slightly better than the forecast loss of €834 million in a company poll of analysts.
"It's better than we predicted, but still a fairly traumatic loss for an airline that has been consistently profitable for our 35-year history," O'Leary said.
Ryanair flew 27.5 million passengers to the end of March, down from 149 million the previous year. O'Leary said that his current estimate is that the airline will fly between 80 and 100 million in the year to March 31, 2022.
The airline is likely to fly just five to six million passengers in its April-June quarter, which is usually one of its busiest.
The relaxation of travel restrictions in the UK has seen bookings triple in five weeks from 500,000 to 1.5 million per week, O'Leary said.
Confident That Ryanair Will Come Out Of The Pandemic With A Reduced Cost Base
O'Leary also expressed confidence that the airline will come out of the pandemic with a significantly reduced cost base due to cuts in wages, more efficient new aircraft and lower airport costs.
In recent months, the airline has secured extensions on low-cost growth deals with key bases London Stansted, Milan Bergamo and Brussels Charleroi, O'Leary said.
737 MAX Delivery Delays
Ryanair also reported additional delays in the delivery of its first 737 MAX aircraft, which it said may not arrive until after its peak summer period, but there is no indication that the delay will have any impact on capacity.
O'Leary said he that is "quite upset" with Boeing over the delays, which are related to a recent electrical grounding issue, but that he is still in talks about a possible new order for the larger, 230-seat MAX 10.
Ryanair shares were up 0.8% at €17.05 at 0730 GMT on Monday May 17.