Ryanair has reported a 10 per cent increase in full year profit even though it faced passenger backlash from a pilot rostering mistake in 2017 that led to hundreds of flights being cancelled, but CEO Michael O’Leary remains ‘cautious’ about the impact of Brexit.
In a year when customers took to social media to express their anger in the wake of the pilot scheduling error, Ryanair took home €1.45 billion (about £1.27 billion) in post-tax profit.
The low-cost carrier says its figures were boosted by a 9 per cent increase in passengers and a load factor of 95 per cent. While average fares fell by 3 per cent, unit costs were cut by 1 per cent and ancillary spend grew 4 per cent per guest.
O’Leary says that EU capacity growth is expected to continue into 2019, particularly with the potential for the Turkish and Egyptian markets to begin improving after a few challenging years.
However, the Ryanair boss remains cautious about Brexit, saying: “While there is a general belief that an 18-month transition agreement from March 2019 to December 2020 will be implemented and further extended, it is in the best interest of our shareholders if we continue to plan for a hard Brexit in March 2019.”
O’Leary warns that the carrier’s flight rights could be affected by a hard Brexit, though Ryanair has applied for a UK licence as a precaution. He has consitently spoken out against Britain’s decision to leave the EU, going so far as to say he would ground his flights to make voters ‘rethink’ their decision.
The carrier has revealed a pessimistic outlook for FY2019, saying unit costs will rise by 9 per cent this year as a result of higher staff and oil prices. Ryanair gave some pilots a pay rise of up to 20 per cent and made the decision to recognise unions following the threat of strikes last year, which could have a significant impact on the airline’s costs.
Ryanair is still awaiting EU approval on its agreement to increase its stake in Niki Lauda’s new airline Laudamotion to 75 per cent from its current 24.9 per cent.