Ryanair expects a loss of over $1 billion this year as travel restrictions bite

A member of Ryanair cabin crew looks out of the window at Ryanair planes.

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LONDON — Ryanair expects this fiscal year to be “the most challenging” in its 35 year-history, the company said on Monday, as governments step up travel restrictions in an effort to contain new variants of Covid-19.

The budget airline is on track for a net loss of between 850 million euros ($1.03 billion) and 950 million euros for its 2021 fiscal year, ending in March. It reported a net loss of 306 million euros for the three months ending in December.

“Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across the industry,” Ryanair said in a statement. It added that Christmas and New Year traffic “was severely impacted” by travel bans imposed on U.K. travelers in late December.

A number of European governments decided to impose restrictions on flights leaving the U.K. before Christmas after news that a new variant of Covid-19 identified in the county was spreading quickly. This contributed to a 83% drop in traffic in the month of December for Ryanair.

The EU now needs to step up the slow pace of its rollout programme to match the U.K.’s performance.

 The carrier “expects the latest lockdowns and pre-arrival Covid test requirement to materially reduce flight schedules and traffic through to Easter.”

The new year saw European governments extending or introducing lockdowns as they faced a steep surge in new infections. More recently, countries in the region have discouraged non-essential travel as they look to bring down their number of daily cases. It is currently unclear when countries will start reopening their economies and go as far as encouraging travel abroad.

However, European governments are in the process of vaccinating their populations in the hope that this will allow them to return to the normal day-to-day more quickly. However, the vaccine roll-out in Europe is facing production, supply and red tape issues.

“We take some comfort from the success of the U.K. vaccine programme, which is on target to vaccinate almost 50% of the U.K. population (30 million) by the end of March. The EU now needs to step up the slow pace of its rollout programme to match the U.K.’s performance,” Ryanair said on Monday.

Ryanair shares are down about 12% since the start of the year.

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