Ryanair believes it can grow passenger numbers 50% over the next decade, but chief executive Michael O'Leary says it is under no near-term pressure to order new aircraft despite this year taking delivery of the last of its Boeing 737-800s on order.
The Irish budget carrier today posted a 10% improvement in first half profits and raised its full-year outlook on stronger yields and fuel cost savings than originally envisaged. Passenger numbers are expected to grow 4% this financial year to 79 million despite the grounding around 80 aircraft over the winter. This growth, albeit off a higher base figure, is lower than the 7% seen in the previous two years, and double-digit growth before that.
"We have a plan to grow to 120 million passengers over the next ten years," said O'Leary, speaking today at a first half results press conference in London. "We expect to grow our share [of the EU market] from 12% to 18% over the next 10 years," he says, noting this would put it on a par with Southwest Airlines in the US market.
"A lot of the growth will come from the continuing failure of airlines in Europe and the flag carriers restructuring, ie reducing, their short-haul routes," he says. "I think a lot of the growth over the next five to ten years will come from replacing high fare, loss-making, short-haul flights from flag carriers and switching them onto Ryanair."
This year Ryanair takes the last of seven Boeing 737-800s on firm order, growing its fleet to over 300 of the type. But O'Leary sees no imminent aircraft order necessary to help it meet this growth target.
"I do think we will place another aircraft order, but I think it will be over the medium term. I don't expect to place any aircraft orders over the next 12 months," he says.
"At this point of time we already have more aircraft than we need for summer growth 2013," he says, adding it can also grow a further 4% in each of the next two years by not grounding aircraft over the winter season. "We don't feel under any pressure to place another aircraft order until we get to summer 2016 or even 2017."