RyanAir, the Irish airline that invented rock-bottom cheap air travel, is warning that its flights won’t be so famously cheap anymore.
In an interview with the BBC, the airline’s CEO Michael O’Leary said that rising fuel costs would force the airline to raise the average fare by ten euro from its current €40 euro average over the next five years. Its cheapest flights will no longer be offered.
“There’s no doubt that at the lower end of the marketplace, our really cheap promotional fares—the €1.00 fares, the €0.99 fares, even the €9.99 fares—I think you will not see those fares for the next number of years,” Mr. O’Leary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Cheaper and cheaper flight tickets have increased the use of planes, particularly for leisure travel. Budget airlines have made it possible for the middle class to take holidays further from home, and not just a longer annual vacation but also shorter trips. But Ryanair’s new price hikes may curtail international travel, according to GlobalData.
For the moment though, such predictions have yet to be proven. The COVID pandemic reduced international travel, but this summer tourism bounced back in full force, despite the cost-of-living crunch that is also hitting households. O’Leary sees his airline at an advantage in this situation.
“We think people will continue to fly frequently. But I think people are going to become much more price sensitive and therefore my view of life is that people will trade down in their many millions,” he said.
The return of travel has also caused some chaos at airports, including long security lines and delayed and cancelled flights. O’Leary showed little sympathy for airport management, while lauding his company’s performance.
The BBC interview reports that according to air travel consultancy OAG, in the first six months of 2022, Ryanair cancelled 0.3% of flights, compared with British Airways’ total of 3.5%, and Easy Jet’s 2.8%.
O’Leary blamed the problems on a lack of planning by airport officials, saying they knew schedules months in advance and that the staff responsible for airports required less training than pilots, and noted that RyanAir had been “part lucky and part brave” in recruiting and training cabin crew and pilots last November while the Omicron variant of COVD-19 was still making international travel difficult and uncertain.
He joined his voice to others in the airline industry who blamed Brexit for airline staffing problems, calling the UK’s departure from the EU a “disaster for the free movement of labour.” He said the government should “be honest and own up” to the role of Brexit in worker shortages.
He also addressed environmental issues, saying his airline was investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and that replacing gas and diesel burning cars with electric cars would go further in decreasing carbon emissions than targeting airlines.