Europe News

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary blasts government lockdowns as traffic falls 80%

Key Points
  • "We expect intra-European air travel capacity to remain subdued for the next few years," Ryanair said in a statement.
  • However, the firm believes the crisis "will create opportunities" going forward, such as a growing of its fleet and lower airport costs.
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Ryanair CEO: Expect strong 'snapback' of air travel when Covid-19 threat recedes

LONDON — Ryanair said Monday it will operate a "significantly reduced flying scheduled" in the next six months compared to its original expectations as governments across Europe tighten social restrictions.

The statement comes just two days after the U.K. government announced a second lockdown in England starting on November 5. Last week, the French and German governments also put forward plans for a second nationwide lockdown. Meanwhile, many governments across Europe have also stepped up restrictions over the past few days as they grapple with a second wave of coronavirus infections.

"The WHO (World Health Organization) themselves confirmed that lockdowns should be the last option, lockdowns are essentially a failure," Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Monday.

"If we had more aggressive test and tracing provision, or as (U.K. Prime Minister) Boris Johnson promised world class testing and tracing, which clearly we don't have in the U.K., we could and would have avoided a second lockdown," O'Leary added.

The budget airline has been hit hard by stay-at-home orders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The company reported on Monday a 78% drop in revenues between April and September in comparison with its performance a year ago. Ryanair also experienced an 80% fall in the number of customers in those six months.

"It is clear that air travel is in the frontline of this pandemic ... And we think the only way out of this is for governments, the British, the Irish and other European governments, to introduce pre-departure testing," O'Leary told CNBC.

Passenger aircraft, operated by Ryanair Holdings, stand on the tarmac at London Stansted Airport in Stansted, U.K., on May 1, 2020.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

On the back of the latest restrictions in Europe, Ryanair expects fewer flights going forward.

"We expect intra-European air travel capacity to remain subdued for the next few years," Ryanair said in a statement.

O'Leary added that there will be "a core amount of essential travel that will take place this winter, but fundamentally we are talking about a number that is less than a third of our normal."

However, the firm believes the crisis "will create opportunities" going forward, such as a growing of its fleet and lower airport costs.

Other highlights from the first half of the year:

  • A net loss of 197 million euros, compared to a profit of 1.15 billion euros a year ago.
  • Operating costs fell 67% from a year ago to 1.35 billion euros.
  • Load factor reached 72% versus 96% a year ago.

Shares of Ryanair rose more than 3% during morning deals in Europe.