'European holidays will be back this summer', predicts Ryanair boss

‘European beach holidays will be back THIS summer’, predicts Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary ‘if success of Britain’s vaccine rollout continues’ – as airline warns it is set to lose £800m in 2021

  • Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary says he expects a boom in air travel across Europe
  • He warned it was dependent on the UK’s vaccine roll-out’s continued success 
  • Bosses at Ryanair say that Covid continues to ‘wreak havoc across the industry’
  • The airline predicts a net loss of between £750million and £838million in 2021
  • However firm could be in position to ‘capitalise on many growth opportunities’ 

European beach holidays could be back this summer, Ryanair’s top boss has today predicted – but only if the success of Britain’s vaccine roll-out continues. 

Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of the budget airline, said he believes there could be a huge surge in demand for flights to Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal this summer.

In a message of optimism, he predicted that the Covid-hit travel and hospitality industry could finally ‘return to normal’ by the end of this year – due to a ‘pent-up demand’ from beach-deprived Britons.

But, speaking on the same day the Irish low-cost carrier announced expected losses of £800million across 2021, he warned the boom was dependent on the success of the UK’s Covid vaccine roll-out. 

So far almost nine million Britons have received their first dose of a Covid jab – with the Government currently on track to have everyone over the age of 50 vaccinated by the end of March.

And Mr O’Leary believe ministers should lift travel restrictions once Britain’s most vulnerable have been protected.

The optimistic message comes as in other travel-related news:

  • Influencers and social media stars flocked back to the UK from Dubai before new travel restrictions were introduced;
  • Celebrities flock to the Mexican resort’s bars and beaches as influencers’ favourite Middle East haunt falls under travel ban 
  • Britons can still return on indirect flights from the UAE but business trips are no longer considered essential;
  • UK residents must self-isolate at home with the rest of their household for ten days if returning from the UAE;
  • Non-UK residents could travel to another country not on the banned list, stay for ten days, then come to UK;
  • Those arriving from red list countries face having to quarantine in airport hotels for ten days from February 8 

Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of the budget airline, said he believes there could be a huge surge in demand for intra-European flights this summer

Ryanair is expecting to lose £800million in 2021 as bosses of the budget airline brace for the ‘most challenging year’ in the airline’s 35-year history

How coronavirus crushed UK airlines and travel operators 

Flybe: Europe’s largest regional airline collapsed on March 5 after months on the brink, triggering 2,400 job losses and left around 15,000 passengers stranded across the UK and Europe. 

British Airways: The boss of BA owner IAG demanded ministers set up airport testing after the group swung to a £5.6bn loss. The company, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of 2020. 

Jet2: Reported operating losses of £111.2m for the six months to September 30, against earnings of £361.5m a year earlier.

Virgin Atlantic: In September Virgin Atlantic said it could axe a further 1,150 jobs from across the company taking the total number of job losses to 4,700 during the crisis. It also urged the Government to offer carriers emergency credit facilities worth up to £7.5billion. 

TUI: Posted a bottom-line net loss of 1.42 billion euros (£1.3 billion) in the period from April to June.

Easyjet: Crisis saw it crash to an annual loss of £1.27billion – the first in its 25-year history – but the prospect of a vaccine has led to a spike in sales over the past fortnight.

Heathrow: Heathrow’s Terminal 4 will remain closed throughout this year as demand for air travel struggles to recover.

The west London airport made the announcement at the end of 2020 as it said passenger numbers for November were down 88per cent compared with the same month last year.

At the end of October, Heathrow lost its status as Europe’s busiest airport as it recorded a loss of £1.5billion in the first nine months of the year due to Covid-19.

Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, leading the west London hub to be overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as the busiest in Europe.  

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr O’Leary said: ‘We are heartened by the fact that the UK is expecting to vaccinate all the over-50s by the end of March, Europe is probably running a couple of months behind that by the end of June. 

‘So we think once all those high risk groups have been vaccinate, then travel restrictions should be removed, particularly on short haul intra-European travel and we expect there to be a strong recovery of beach holidays and family beach holidays going to Europe this summer.

‘A huge amount of capacity has been taken out of the system, I think with the vaccine roll-out programme there will be a very strong return of pent-up demand for air travel and less capacity there to accommodate that demand, so I think that’s so important that today Ryanair is announcing a return to growth this summer.

‘We will return with lower fares, better deals for families, and I think very strong return to travel and normality in the travel and the hospitality sector by the end of 2021.’  

His comments come as it was announced Ryanair is expecting to lose £800million in 2021 as bosses of the budget airline  brace for the ‘most challenging year’ in the airline’s 35-year history.

With Covid continuing to ‘wreak havoc across the industry’, bosses of the Irish low-cost carrier predict big losses across the 2021 financial year.

They are ‘cautiously guiding’ a net loss of between £750million and £838million.

However, the airline said it would be in a position where it could ‘capitalise on the many growth opportunities’ after the pandemic, ‘especially where competitor airlines have substantially cut capacity or failed’.  

Today the company announced third-quarter losses of £270million on Monday.

Bosses added that in the three months to December, 8.1 million passengers used Ryanair, compared to 35.9 million in the same quarter in 2019.

The loss for the quarter contrasts with an £78 million profit after tax in the same period a year before.

The company said: ‘FY21 will continue to be the most challenging year in Ryanair’s 35 year history.

‘Recently announced Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions across the EU & UK will reduce forecast FY21 traffic to between 26m and 30m (previously ‘up to 35m’), with more risk towards the lower end of the range.

‘While Q4 visibility remains limited due to uncertain and constantly changing Covid-19 travel restrictions, European government lockdowns, the timing of the rollout of vaccines across the EU and a very close-in booking curve, we are cautiously guiding an FY21 net loss (pre-exceptional items) of between 850m euros (£750m) and 950m euros (£838m).’

Mr O’Leary said he hopes the Covid-hit travel and hospitality industry could finally ‘return to normal’ by the end of this year. Pictured: A near empty North Terminal at Gatwick Airport at a usually busy Christmas time last year

Michael O’Leary urged ministers to lift travel restrictions once Britain’s most vulnerable residents had been vaccinated – which the Government hopes to have achieved by the end of March. Pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow on Friday

Compared with the same quarter in 2019, revenue fell 82% from £1.69billion to £0.3billion, and operating costs also fell 63% from £1.6 billion to £0.59 billion.

The firm said: ‘As we look beyond the Covid-19 crisis, and vaccinations roll out, the Ryanair Group expects to have a much lower cost base and a strong balance sheet, which will enable it to fund lower fares and add lower-cost aircraft to capitalise on the many growth opportunities that will be available in all markets across Europe, especially where competitor airlines have substantially cut capacity or failed.’

The message of optimism comes as Priti Patel warned last month that it was ‘far too early’ to think about booking a holiday abroad this summer.

The Home Secretary said she would not be drawn on speculation as to when tight travel restrictions could be lifted in the UK.

Fines for holidays with police checking your passport at the airport 

How can the Government stop Britons from going on holiday?

Lockdown rules already ban people from international travel unless it is for work. Leaving home is only permitted for a small number of reasons. 

Under the lockdown laws introduced at the start of January and which will run until March 31, people in England are allowed only to leave the house for a very slim range of activities. 

But the rules, which are largely the same as for the second lockdown in November, also ban foreign leisure travel, just as they prohibit domestic leisure travel.

What happens if I want to travel abroad?

People wanting to leave the UK will have to fill out a form giving the reason for their trip. 

Anyone who turns up at ports and airports without a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home and may face a fine. 

Priti Patel said today: ‘Going on holiday is not a valid reason, so we will introduce a new requirement so that people wishing to travel must first make a declaration as to why they need to travel.

‘This reason for travel will be checked by carriers prior to departure.’

Travel operators are also expected to face fines if they fail to inspect these forms. 

What will I have to prove if I went to travel? 

Work trips are allowed, so you will have to show some proof that your flight or sea crossing is vital for your employment.

However, there are a range of other reasons for ‘essential travel.

These are the same at the reasons for leaving your house: medical care, to escape harm, compassionate visits –  for example a funeral – and weddings. 

The list of travel exemptions will be urgently reviewed so that only the most important and exceptional reasons are included. 

Who is going to enforce these rules?

It is not clear whether airlines and other travel operators will have the unilateral ability to decide whether someone has given a genuine reason for a trip on their forms, or it will end up being referred to police. There will also be an increased police presence at ports and airports, fining those in breach of the stay at home regulations. 

Why is this being highlighted now?

The Home Secretary lashed out at social media influencers who have been posting images of themselves in sunny parts of the world like Dubai during the lockdown. 

Many have claimed they were travelling for work, but have attracted a backlash from people stuck at home after also enjoying the nightlife and beaches. 

Ms Patel also singled out people ‘turning up with their skis’ at London’s St Pancras station to catch the Eurostar to European resorts, adding: ‘That is clearly not acceptable.’ 

 

Even tighter restrictions have been put in place since due to concerns over new mutant strains of Covid – which experts fear could impact on the effectiveness of the UK’s vaccine roll-out. 

Ms Patel last week heralded a huge squeeze on ‘non-essential’ journeys as she revealed that even during lockdown individuals have been flouting the rules – including by turning up to go abroad carrying skis.

In a statement to MPs, she said such people now face being sent home again, and will have to fill out a legal declaration saying that they are going for essential purposes.

‘Going on holiday is not a valid reason to travel,’ she swiped.

Lockdown rules already ban people from international travel unless it is for work. Leaving home is only permitted for a small number of reasons. 

Ms Patel also declared that Britons returning from around 30 ‘red list’ Covid countries will be forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense.

MailOnline understands that hundreds of arrivals each day are expected to be escorted directly from airports to rooms, where they will have to stay for the duration of their isolation and pay a bill estimated at £1,500 – although ministers hope the numbers will ‘fall through the floor’ as people avoid coming to the UK.

It will only affect British travellers, as foreign citizens who have been in the countries are already banned from entering altogether.  

However models, social media influencers and reality TV stars defiantly stayed at the poolside in Dubai and Abu Dhabi after thousands of other British travellers raced home to beat the travel ban which began last Friday.

The likes of Mia Sully from Absolutely Ascot and Love Island stars Joseph Garratt and Anton Danyluk were pictured on Instagram enjoying life in the sunshine today, despite the UK Government adding the United Arab Emirates to the so-called red list of countries from where travel to Britain is prohibited during the coronavirus pandemic.

Others including Only Fans model Honey Evans from Leeds said they would stay out in Dubai despite the ban. She tweeted: ‘Flights from Dubai to the UK are banned. Guess I have no choice but to stay out here. Shame.’ Following a backlash, Ms Evans later added: ‘So many people giving me s*** for being in Dubai.’ 

Due to border closures caused by Covid-19, Dubai to London was the world’s busiest international route in January with 190,365 scheduled seats this month. In normal times the busiest route to and from London is New York City.

Many Britons are staying out in Dubai because they know they will only have to quarantine at home for ten days upon their return – and a rule forcing them to stay in a hotel will not come in until February 8 at the earliest.

But some said they had just managed to get home just before the ban on direct inbound passenger flights from the UAE to Britain came into effect at 1pm today.

Dubai, which is home to some 240,000 British expats and is a major tourist destination for UK travellers, is likely to face a major economic hit from the travel ban. 

Meanwhile the travel industry continues to face a squeeze due to Covid restrictions. 

More than 1,000 workers at Gatwick Airport are to lose their jobs as Norwegian Air axes its long-haul operation, it was announced earlier this month.

The cash-strapped carrier has announced it is abandoning long-haul flights, many of which fly out of the airport in Crawley, West Sussex.

The move will lead to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.

Last year the boss of BA owner IAG demanded ministers set up airport testing after the group swung to a £5.6bn loss.

The company, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of 2020.  

In September Virgin Atlantic said it could axe a further 1,150 jobs from across the company taking the total number of job losses to 4,700 during the crisis.

It also urged the Government to offer carriers emergency credit facilities worth up to £7.5billion.  

However there is hope with Britain’s vaccine roll-out well on target. The Government hopes to vaccinate everyone over the age of 65 by the end of March.

So far, nine million people in Britain have been given a first dose, and, of those, half a million given their second dose. 

In another sign of good news, the coronavirus crisis in hospitals across the UK has ‘stabilised’ and staff are no longer having to plan for extra capacity, an intensive care doctor has said.

Every elderly care home resident across England has now been offered their first Covid vaccination, as figures showed another record-breaking day for jabs across the UK

But Professor Rupert Pearse from the Intensive Care Society said 2021 is going to be ‘another very hard year’ and warned of the mental health impact on NHS staff.

There are currently nearly 35,000 people in hospitals in the UK and 3,832 patients on ventilators, according to the latest official figures.

Prof Pearse also said the second wave of Covid-19 cases has gone on ‘for more than three months now’ compared to the eight-week long first wave – and hinted it could be a further three months before admissions ‘settle’.

Meanwhile, figures show daily positive Covid tests have fallen by 31 per cent in the past week to 23,275, with hospital admissions down by 16 per cent over the same period, and deaths down six per cent to 1,200.

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