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Budget airline Ryanair this morning reported a record annual after-tax loss of ?815m (£701m) after Covid-19 restrictions forced it to scrap four out of every five flights it scheduled.
However, group CEO Michael O'Leary said the airline's 1.5m new weekly bookings meant "recovery has already begun".
Europe's largest discount airline flew 27.5m passengers in its financial year to 31 March 2021, down from 149m the previous year in what it called the most challenging in its history.
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Revenues slumped 81 per cent to ?1.64bn, in line with the fall in traffic which was 149m pre-Covid-19. However, for those who did choose to fly, they spent more on Ryanair's add-on services with more guests chose priority boarding and reserved seating, resulting in an 11 per cent increase in per passenger spend to almost ?22.
The airline reiterated its forecast that passenger numbers for the current fiscal year would be towards the lower end in the range of 80-120m passengers.
It expects to fly just 5-6m passengers in the quarter to 30 June as many of its markets remain in some sort of lockdown or with huge restrictions on travel.
Ryanair said it was impossible to give a formal profit outlook for the year, but added that it "cautiously believed that the likely outcome for FY22 is currently close to breakeven" if the EU vaccine rollout remains on track.
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Jack Winchester, an analyst at Third Bridge said of the results:
" For an airline which was consistently making considerably over a billion Euros of operating profit pre-Covid, this 840mEUR loss shows how devastating Coronavirus has been for the air travel market."
"Ryanair, like its ultra-low-cost peer Wizz Air, weathered the crisis far better than its legacy counterparts. It also stands ready to hoover up the pent-up demand for foreign holidays we're about to see as rules on international travel finally ease."
"While Lufthansa, IAG and Air France KLM all struggled under the weight of huge hub-and-spoke airline operations, Ryanair's point-to-point model meant it was able to adapt faster and more fully to a historic year of low demand.""Ryanair, never one to waste a crisis, is now going on the offensive, seeking to gain further market share and utilise the 210 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft it has recently ordered."
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Richard Flood, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: "Ryanair remains amongst the best-placed airlines to benefit from the reopening of the travel market, with its mix of leisure and short haul European destinations.
"The company's strong share price continues to show optimism about a return to normal travel; but, whilst Ryanair is cleared for take-off, the journey ahead remains clouded in uncertainty, as travel restrictions may be with us for some time yet."
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