Ryanair soars to record profit as O’Leary hits out at eco activists

Ryanair soars to record profit as boss Michael O’Leary hits out at climate activists and the ‘flight-shaming’ movement

Ryanair posted a record £1.2billion half-year profit after holidaymakers flocked abroad over the summer.

The budget airline hailed a ‘very strong post-Covid recovery’, with passenger numbers in the six months to the end of September up 11 per cent on pre-pandemic levels at 95.1m.

And despite raising prices by 14 per cent, bookings from October’s half term to the crucial Christmas period ‘remain strong’.

Record profits: Ryanair hailed a strong post-Covid recovery with passenger numbers in the six months to the end of September up 11% on pre-pandemic level

The results came as chief executive Michael O’Leary launched an attack on climate activists including Greta Thunberg and the so-called ‘flight-shaming’ movement.

The outspoken Irishman said environmental campaigners have not had an impact on the business. He told the Telegraph: ‘I don’t pay too much attention to them.

‘There is very little evidence of the impact of flight-shaming or Greta Thunberg.

‘We live on an island in Ireland and the UK. The idea that we can all simply go by train on weekends when there aren’t train strikes is a fallacy.’

He said the aviation sector creates 2 per cent of Europe’s carbon emissions and road transport is responsible for 27 per cent, adding that ‘nobody believes we can eliminate road transport’.

Ryanair also brushed off fears it will be hit by travellers cutting back as the cost of living crisis intensifies.

O’Leary said concerns for the business have been ‘greatly exaggerated’ and insisted customers will not stop flying in a recession but will ‘become more price-sensitive’.

He compared the airline to Lidl, Aldi and Ikea, all of which have picked up swathes of customers from rivals thanks to their low price points.

The 61-year-old said: ‘Millions of passengers are switching to fly with Ryanair for our lower prices, our industry-leading reliability and our greener, fuel-efficient aircraft.

‘Propensity to travel remains high in Europe as a result of full employment, rising wages and two years of pent-up demand and accumulated savings while people were “locked up” during Covid.’ 

But Ryanair warned that its recovery for the rest of the year is ‘fragile’ and it could be hit by developments in the Ukraine and new Covid variants.

It said it will swing to a loss in the six months to the end of March, but will still make a profit for the year overall of up to £1billion. It will mark a return to profits for the airline after back-to-back years of losses.

Interactive Investor investment head Victoria Scholar said: ‘Although the winter will be challenging for Ryanair, it enjoyed an impressive summer performance thanks to the release of pent-up demand for international travel post-pandemic. 

With a recession on the horizon, the ongoing reduction in business travel and the seasonally slower months ahead, winter will be a struggle. 

But Ryanair remains optimistic about next year both in terms of profitability and passenger numbers.’

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