Ryanair’s O’Leary Sees School Reopening as Key to Europe Airline Recovery

Kids have only just started their summer break yet Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary is already counting the days until they go back to school.

With fresh travel restrictions threatening to jeopardize the long-awaited summer recovery, O’Leary said he needs the re-opening of schools in September to reignite business travel and enable Europe’s largest discount carrier to meet revised 2020 goals. Ryanair is budgeting for 60 million passengers this year, down from a prior forecast of 75 million, as occasional coronavirus flare-ups look set to disrupt routes into the winter, he added.

Countries across Europe sought to restrict travel to Spain following a steady increase in new infections in the country last week. That’s dented the hopes of Ryanair and other carriers in Europe which have been counting on some recovery during the usually lucrative summer season to make up for over three months of shutdown.

“To the extent they successfully manage the return to schools, we think there will be some return to some level of normality of business travel,” O’Leary said on an investor call Monday. “If that doesn’t happen, then we think business travel will also be badly affected through September and October and therefore even the 60 million will be a challenging figure.”

The carrier, which resumed flying at the start of this month, flew 152 million passengers in 2019. Ryanair reported a loss of 185 million euros ($217 million) in the fiscal first quarter, when its jets were largely idled and the customer count dropped 99%. It’s predicting air travel will remain depressed for two or three years at least.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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