Dow Jones – Ryanair sought to draw a line under weeks of flight cancellations and pilot strife as it reported an improvement in earnings and stuck to its full year-guidance.
Ryanair shocked passengers and investors in September and October by cancelling thousands of flights because of errors in scheduling staff. More than 700,000 passengers were affected.
The Irish carrier said profits for the six months to September rose 11% to €1.29bn. Sales rose to €2.52bn from €2.44bn a year earlier.
Despite the disruption related costs, and a promise to pilots to boost pay, Ryanair held to its full-year earnings target of €1.4bn to €1.45bn. The airline said that after completing the latest share buyback of €600m, it planned no more repurchases in the near term, to focus on its balance sheet.
“These strong results reinforce the robust nature of Ryanair’s low fare, pan-European growth model even during a period which suffered a material failure in our pilot-rostering function in early September,” said Michael O’Leary, the airline’s outspoken chief executive.
Yield development, a measure of ticket prices, is shaping up to be slightly better than expected in the second half of the airline’s financial year ending March 31. Though visibility is limited, Ryanair chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said it would fall by around 5% to 6% rather than 8%. Better ticket pricing and stronger-than-expected non-ticket revenue helped offset disruption costs, he said.
The pilot-staffing crisis forced Ryanair to trim expansion plans. Passenger numbers this financial year are now projected at 129 million, down from an earlier 131 million estimate; next year’s projection is now 138 million passengers, down from 142 million.
Ryanair says the Irish regulator asked it to change pilot holiday periods starting in 2018 to follow the calendar year rather than the airline’s March 31 financial year. That meant pilots who had flown during the busy summer period, when flights were around 97% sold, were owed their leave before year-end.