London: Ryanair Holdings plc. said it's betting on a rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines to deliver a late-summer travel surge after forecasting losses of up to 950 million euros ($1.1 billion) in the year through March.
While a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Europe means Easter is "essentially a writeoff", the passenger tally may recover to between 50-70 per cent of normal levels in the peak months of July, August and September as more people get the jab, CEO Michael O'Leary said.
Bet on short-haul
"You're going to see a dramatically accelerated rate of vaccination across the EU," O'Leary said. "That's the point where we are released from these restrictions. Short-haul travel will recover strongly and quickly. There is huge suppressed travel demand in Europe."
Europe's biggest discount airline expects to carry as few as 26 million people in the current 12 months compared with 149 million in fiscal 2020 as the emergence of new coronavirus variants drives further spikes in case numbers. Governments have responded with tougher rules and told citizens that it's premature to book summer holidays.
Get vaccinated and watch
O'Leary said he may need to revisit his optimism about the pace of a revival if vaccination programmes are delayed or prove unsuccessful, but that current scenarios point to a recovery through the remainder of 2021 and a stronger rebound next year.
The CEO said Europe has been slow with inoculations but that the bulk of the continent could still be protected by September. Eurocontrol, the region's air traffic control agency, said last week that flights could still be down by between 55-70 per cent from 2019 levels in June.
Ryanair reported a net loss of 306 million euros in the third quarter ended December 31 after border restrictions and lockdowns wiped out much of usual Christmas travel surge. The Dublin-based carrier's December passenger count tumbled 83 per cent to just 1.9 million people.