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Ryanair sees rises in air fares easing over summer

Passengers boarding a Ryanair plane
[Getty Images]

No-frills airline Ryanair has said fares during the peak summer season are set to be unchanged or only "modestly" higher than last year.

The carrier said while it expected "strong" demand for flights in July and August, airfares had been growing slower than expected recently.

Airline boss Michael O'Leary said this could be down to a "recessionary feel around Europe".

His comments came as Ryanair said profits for the year to March jumped 34% to €1.92bn (£1.64bn) after fares rose by a fifth.

Demand for air travel has been increasing steadily ever since the Covid pandemic restrictions were lifted.

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In the past few weeks, British Airways owner IAG and EasyJet have both been forecasting strong demand for flights this summer.

Ryanair said it carried 183.7 million passengers in the year to March, with average fares up 21% to €49.80.

It said it had seen record trading last summer, and strong traffic over Easter in March.

However, this was offset by a fall in numbers at the end of last year, after Ryanair flights were removed from several online travel agents.

The airline said bookings for this summer were ahead of last year, although fares were not as high as it had expected.

"We still see reasonable strength in July and August bookings, the peak summer months, but April, May and June are a little bit weaker than we had originally expected," Mr O'Leary said.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that peak summer 2024 fares will be flat to modestly ahead of summer 2023," he added

“It’s a little bit surprising that pricing hasn’t been stronger and we’re not sure if that’s kind of consumer sentiment , or recessionary feel around Europe."

Ryanair, which has been hampered in its expansion plans by delays to the delivery of new Boeing planes, said it could carry 198-200 million customers this year if the new aircraft are delivered on schedule.

It said there was a risk the deliveries could "slip further", but Mr O'Leary said he thought this was "unlikely".

However, the airline said it would be short of about 23 Boeing 737s that were due to arrive by the end of July.

Mr O'Leary said Ryanair would receive compensation from Boeing for the delays, although it would be "modest" and did not reflect the cost to the airline of having to cut back its growth plans.

The carrier said it was continuing to work closely with the aerospace giant to improve quality and increase the pace of deliveries.

Boeing's planes have come under intense focus once again after the company was plunged into a crisis in January when a panel on one of its aircraft blew out in mid-air.

Scrutiny over Boeing's plane manufacturing processes has led to a slowdown in deliveries.

Boeing boss Dave Calhoun has said he will step down from the planemaker at the end of the year.

Mr O'Leary said Ryanair welcomed Boeing's management changes, and "already we’re seeing improved quality on our aircraft deliveries but sadly not yet enough progress on accelerating those deliveries".

Ryanair did not give any profit forecasts for the current year, saying that was "heavily dependent" upon avoiding adverse events such as the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, extensive air traffic control disruptions or further Boeing delivery delays.