Ryanair lost £702m in the past 12 months as its planes were grounded and passengers stayed at home during the coronavirus crisis, the company has announced.
The Irish budget airline said its traffic plunged 81 per cent in the year to March as a result of the pandemic, from 149 million passengers in the previous year, to just 27.5 million.
However, the firm said in a statement that it expected there to be a “strong rebound of pent-up travel demand” in the second half of this year, and that this should help it begin to recover some of its steep losses.
It described the past financial year as “the most challenging” yet in the firm’s 36-year history.
“There was a partial recovery during summer 2020, as initial lockdowns eased. However, a second Covid-19 wave in Europe followed quickly in the autumn, with a third wave in spring,” Ryanair said.
“This created enormous disruptions and uncertainty for both our customers and our people, as they suffered constantly changing government guidelines, travel bans and restrictions.
“Ryanair responded promptly, and effectively, to this crisis, by working hard to assist millions of customers with flight changes, refunds and changed travel plans.
“We minimised job losses through agreed pay cuts and participation in government job-support schemes, while at the same time keeping our pilots, cabin crew and aircraft current and ready to resume service once normality returns.”
Ryanair plans to return to pre-Covid growth in the summer of next year, boosted by delivery of hundreds of the new Boeing 737 Max, the controversial aircraft that was grounded by regulators two years ago following a pair of fatal crashes.
The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has previously insisted that these new, larger 737s will be a “game changer” for the company, despite their safety history.