By John Flett
Ryanair Posts Record High Passenger Numbers for March
Ryanair has posted positive gains in traffic figures for the month of March with the airline recording 11.2 million passengers carried. This is the highest number of passengers the airline has ever carried in March with the previous high being in 2019 when the Irish airline registered 10.9 million passengers. The figure is a definite cause for celebration given that it was achieved in spite of the cancellation of 2000 flights in the month due to Ukrainian airspace closures.
The airline operated over 67,800 flights in March and achieved an 87 percent load factor which was the highest in several months. Though the increasing load factor is a positive sign it is still some way off the 95 percent load factor achieved for the financial year ending March 2020.
Robust figures for the airline were also evident in Eurocontrol’s weekly summary of airline flight operations comparing 2022 figures with those of the same period in 2019. For the week ending 1 April Ryanair managed a gain of 14 percent over the pre-pandemic period three years ago with 2685 flights operating despite the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Only one other carrier posted a positive gain over 2019 with eastern European rival Wizz Air increasing flights by 10 percent with 622 in operation.
In a further promising sign, Eurocontrol reported that the U.K. market was the busiest state for the week from 31 March – 06 April. The U.K. averaged 4653 departures/arrivals per day across all airlines which sat at 78 percent of the comparable 2019 levels. All of the markets in the top 10 reported positive gains in flight numbers for the reported week with Turkey operating 97 percent of 2019 flights and Portugal 93 percent.
With the aviation industry seemingly on an upwards trend, there have been some negative events that threaten to hamper the recent gains. In addition to the situation in Ukraine airlines and airports in Europe and in other parts of the world have been facing staff shortages. The ongoing impact of the virus has been affecting staff sickness levels with an unsurprising spike in positive coronavirus cases since the removal of mask mandates and social distancing measures.
This staffing situation has been further exacerbated by the sudden removal of restrictions by governments leading to a surge in demand by passengers but limited time for aviation businesses to employ staff to cover the required positions. The shortages at Dublin airport have been affecting flight departures to the extent that Ryanair group chief executive Michael O’Leary suggested calling in the armed forces.
The Irish Mirror reported Mr O’Leary as saying, “It’s going to take six or eight weeks to hire and train about 200-300 additional security staff but during that six or eight weeks they need help. We need Minister Ryan, who is the Minister for Transport, to get involved in this. We’re proposing that 200 members of the Army be called in to help do the patting down at security screening.”
The continuing impact of CoVid-19 related issues on U.K. carriers was highlighted by Eurocontrol’s comparison figures for easyJet and British Airways. The low-cost airline was operating 15 percent fewer flights than in the same week of 2019 with British Airways flight numbers down a whopping 36 percent. Though both airlines had been seeing gains from the previous week in 2022 with easyJet flight numbers up 29 percent and British Airways a slender 6 percent.