COVID-19: Ryanair urges EU to step up ‘slow pace’ of vaccines as it posts €321m loss

Ryanair has urged Europe to step up the “slow pace” of COVID-19 vaccinations as it reported a €321m (£279m) loss for the Christmas quarter.

The Dublin-based carrier said the EU needed to try to match the performance of the UK in rolling out jabs against the virus which it said “continues to wreak havoc across the industry”.

Latest restrictions pushed traffic down by 83% to 1.9 million passengers in December compared to the same month a year earlier, Ryanair said.

For the third quarter to 31 December as a whole numbers were down by 78% to 8.1 million and revenue fell by 82% to €340m (£296m).

Ryanair’s loss for the quarter compares to a profit of €88m (£76m) in the same period a year earlier.

With lockdowns and test requirements expected to take their toll on flight schedules through to Easter, the airline – which is Europe’s biggest – has reduced its outlook for passenger numbers for the full year to the end of March.

But Ryanair, seen as one of the carriers best placed to navigate through the pandemic, expects to capitalise through growth in places where rivals have scaled back or failed during the crisis.

It said: “We take some comfort from the success of the UK vaccine programme which is on target to vaccinate almost 50% of the UK population (30m) by the end of March.

“The EU now needs to step up the slow pace of its rollout programme to match the UK’s performance.”

The airline said it expected to report a full-year loss of €850m-€950m (£740m-£827m), by far its biggest ever, and that it “will continue to be the most challenging year in Ryanair’s 35-year history”.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said he expected a recovery in traffic to accelerate between July and September, before returning to 70% and 90% of normal levels between October and March.

Neil Sorahan, the airline’s chief financial officer, said: “We are hopeful that moving into peak summer, we’re going to
see the lockdowns relaxing… and there is huge pent-up demand out there.

“I think it could be a reasonable summer.”

Mr Sorahan added that in the winter “we hope to be getting back to some kind of normality”.

The airline reaffirmed a forecast it would fly between 26 million and 30 million passengers in the year to end-March
compared with 149 million in its previous financial year.

But it warned there was now “more risk towards the lower end of the range.”

Meanwhile, Ryanair said that it expected to have taken delivery of at least 24 of 210 Boeing 737 MAX jets it has on order in time for its peak summer season.

The aircraft was recently cleared to return to the skies over the UK and Europe following two deadly crashes which resulted in the entire fleet being grounded in early 2019.

Ryanair sees the MAX as a “gamechanger” because of its fuel efficiency, enabling it to ramp up an expansion of low-fares routes across the continent.

It ordered 75 of them in December, the biggest single order since the aeroplane’s grounding.

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