DALLAS — Ryanair (FR), Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, released its passenger traffic figures for the peak summer months, and the numbers are remarkable.
Between June and August of 2023, the airline transported 55 million passengers, setting a new all-time record. To put this into perspective, the total passenger traffic at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport (AMS) throughout the entire year of 2022 was 52 million passengers. This achievement is a testament to FR’s expanded summer schedule, which included the opening of three new bases and the introduction of over 190 new routes.
The airline’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, expressed his satisfaction with the growth, highlighting the company’s strong market presence in Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK.
The carrier’s performance was achieved month by month. June recorded 17.4 million passengers, followed by July with 18.7 million, and August, when FR came close to reaching the 19 million mark for the first time in its history.
O’Leary’s Discontent with European ATC Efficiency
With Europe’s commercial aviation industry leading the way in terms of a rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer of 2023 exceeded pre-pandemic levels in terms of flight volume and airspace congestion. However, this positive trend was marred by Air Traffic Controller strikes in France and Spain during the peak season, resulting in significant delays and flight cancellations for airlines.
Ryanair, which operated 3,200 flights, was heavily impacted by these strikes and initiated several campaigns urging affected customers to file complaints with the European Union. Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, emphasized the urgent need for reform of Europe’s inefficient Air Traffic Control (ATC) system as a crucial environmental initiative for the airline.
O’Leary called on Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, to protect the single market for air travel and mitigate the impact of ATC strikes on EU citizens. Additionally, other disruptive events such as ground handling strikes and ongoing floods and storms in Spain have further complicated the “return phase” of the summer season, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at major airports like Palma de Mallorca (PMI), a popular holiday destination in Southern Europe.
Big Plans for Ryanair
Ryanair has set an ambitious goal for FY24, aiming for traffic to reach approximately 183.5 million passengers. However, the airline has acknowledged that the delivery delays from Boeing in the spring and autumn of 2023 will pose challenges to achieving this target. Despite these complexities, Ryanair remains determined to reach its goal.
In May 2023, the carrier placed its largest-ever order, securing the acquisition of 150 Boeing 737-10 aircraft and an additional 150 optional units. These new MAX-family airplanes will supplement the airline’s current fleet of 124 737-8200s, which are configured to accommodate up to 197 passengers in a tight seating arrangement.
With its traffic statistics that rival those of intercontinental airports and a fleet and network that rank among the top 10 globally, FR is poised to be recognized as one of the most successful and influential airlines in the commercial aviation market, if it hasn’t already achieved that status.
Featured image: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways