world of aviation logo

Ryanair ambitiously ramps up network operations, eyes 80% capacity

written by Hannah Dowling | March 25, 2021

A Ryanair plane touches down at Dublin (Source: Ryanair)

Ryanair anticipates an 80 per cent return to pre-pandemic capacity levels by July, while announcing 26 new destinations in its network, as the carrier ambitiously banks on a fast-approaching European industry recovery.

The European budget carrier’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, reiterated on Wednesday that he is confident in a meaningful recovery for intra-European air travel, with the airline’s current forecasts suggesting it could return to 80 per cent of its 2019 capacity by July.

O’Leary acknowledged that travel demand through the European winter holiday season was not as strong as expected, and that new waves of infections throughout Europe will see an underwhelming Easter holiday travel season too.

The airline is anticipating that demand for travel between April and June will sit “at best” at around 50 per cent, however, as the rollout of the COVID vaccine continues in both the UK and throughout Europe, an upswing can be expected by July.

“We are saying we will operate at about 50 per cent between April and June with risk to the downside and at about 80 per cent between July and September with risk to the upside,” O’Leary said.

The Ryanair boss anticipated a “big easing” of travel restrictions across the UK and EU by the middle of the European summer, ambitiously adding that the extent of which would be “to the point of doing away with them”.

“The UK’s vaccination program has been spectacularly successful and Europe expects to have vaccinated 70 per cent of its adult population by the end of June,” O’Leary said.


When asked to provide a forecast for the rest of the year to March 2022, O’Leary simply said “we really don’t know what next winter will be like”.

However, in light of O’Leary’s confidence in a summer season demand rebound, the airline has announced the expansion of its summer schedule to include 26 new routes to popular European holiday destinations.

With the addition of the new routes, Ryanair will perform over 2,300 flights per week across 480 routes.

Eight of these 26 new routes connect Northern Ireland’s Belfast City with popular tourist destinations in Europe, marking the first time Ryanair has flown from Belfast in the last 11 years.

The return to Northern Ireland is significant following the collapse of UK regional carrier Flybe last year, which was the six counties’ primary air connection to the rest of the world.

Other new routes include London to Santorini, Birmingham to Rhodes and Newcastle to Chania.

On the other hand, thanks to a delay in the recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX in both Europe and the UK, Ryanair has reduced the number of MAX jets it intends to welcome by the summer season from 24 to 16.

Under the new delivery schedule, the European airline expects to receive eight MAX jets each in April and May, and none in June.

Despite the setback, the airline continues to throw its support behind the aircraft, with O’Leary marking it as a commercial and financial “gamechanger”, as the 737 MAX can carry 4 per cent more passengers, with 16 per cent less fuel burn, than its 737 predecessor.


Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year