200m Ryanair passengers ‘very realistic’

The outgoing deputy chief executive of Ryanair stated yesterday that the airline “is only scratching the surface” of its potential in Europe, stating that carrying 200m passengers in a single year “is very realistic”.

At a Shannon Chamber of Commerce business breakfast at Dromoland Castle yesterday, Michael Cawley also poured cold water on the airline’s transatlantic plans and admitted that last year the airline “lost families in a big way” on its routes.

On press reports yesterday morning concerning Michael O’Leary talking about possible €10 Ryanair fares to the US, Mr Cawley said that his boss had given him ‘a hospital pass’ talking about the €10 fares to America.

Mr Cawley said: “I can say whatever I want because I’m leaving in four weeks' time, but the so-called ‘Ryanair transatlantic project’ is not something that sits within Ryanair as such.”

He said: “There is a business there of a low-cost option possible from many secondary airports around Europe.”

However, Mr Cawley identified challenges to Ryanair mounting any transatlantic business including immigration, licences and not having the advantage of a 25-minute turnaround time.

He said: “It is something that we haven’t worked on for a long time, it is something that is there. At some stage there was enthusiasm for it, but now we are so busy immersed in allocating the 175 new aircraft we have around Europe there is just no time for it.

Mr Cawley said that Ryanair’s transatlantic business “is something that is not imminent, but there is a business there we reckon”.

Mr Cawley said that in a newspaper interview last week he said “that we would do 150m passengers per annum and Michael O’Leary was away skiing with his kids and he texted me to say ‘you fucked up, it’s 200 million’ and he’s right.”

Mr Cawley said that the European market has 450m people “and we carry 15m people five or six times a year”.

Identifying growth potential in Turkey, Morocco and Israel along with the 450m-strong European market, Mr Cawley said that the ambition to grow to 200m passengers per annum “is very realistic”. “It is very hard to put a timing on it, but we are talking about 15 years.”

Providing the context for Ryanair’s new customer service approach, Mr Cawley told the audience that the airline “lost families in a big way last year, we are not going to lose them this year”.

He said: “Most young couples want to sit with their children and we made it very difficult for them. “We are humble enough to say we got it wrong and we are going to get it right this year”.

He said: “We were wrong last year in many of the things we did. The one bag rule was wrong for instance.”

He said: “We have no problem saying that the rest of the competition, particularly easyjet, had a huge competitive advantage over us last year. We equally have no problem in saying that by June, they will have none — and we still have the lowest fares and lowest costs.”

Mr Cawley conceded that in many cases the lowest fare was just enough in getting people to fly with Ryanair.

He said that the airline would have business-friendly and family -friendly products in place by June.

Mr Cawley said that Shannon will record the largest percentage increase in Ryanair traffic this year and marking the new relationship and Mr Cawley’s retirement Shannon Group chairwoman Rose Hynes presented a gift to the 59-year-old rugby fan of the jersey Paul O’Connell wore against England at Twickenham last Saturday.


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