Ryanair expects to carry 100m passengers in its current financial year, with Mr O’Leary admitting: “We’ve moved from being cheap and nasty to cheap and cheerful.”
Mr O’Leary says he has backed up the softer strategy with a passenger charter, adding: “If I’d known it would work so well, I’d have done it years ago.”
Crews and passengers are happier now, with a 5% increase in load factor, Mr O’Leary told flightglobal.com interviewer David Learmount.
Ryanair is looking to expand its present fleet of 309 Boeing 737-800s to 550 aircraft, carrying 160m passengers, by 2024. It still has 170 new 800s on order, and 100 of the new 737 Max on firm order — for delivery from 2019 — with the same number again on option.
However, Mr O’Leary admitted Ryanair has got things wrong too. He said the rigid one-bag-per-passenger policy, as well as strict adherence to precise bag size, was disruptive to the boarding process, even though it had the beneficial side-effect of radically changing passenger behaviour. Now, only 20% of passengers want to check a bag in.
Extortionate penalties for failing to check in in advance, or for losing a boarding card have been dropped.
Mr O’Leary said a major part of expansion plans is to set up Ryanair operations at Europe’s “major bases”, undercutting EasyJet and legacy carriers in their home territory. Ryanair’s average fare is €46, he said, but passengers pay an average of €40 on top of that for the new ‘Business Plus’ service.
O’Leary said the only out-of-bounds airports for Ryanair in Europe are London Heathow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Frankfurt Main, because they are too expensive and inefficient. Ryanair is now — or will soon be — at Brussels Zaventem, Cologne, Copenhagen, and Lisbon, and the CEO says the carrier “will be at all the others within five years”.
Mr O’Leary also revealed that Ryanair has a pair of Learjets on standby daily in Dublin and Bergamo to ferry mechanical or engineering assistance to any of its 309-strong fleet around Europe.