Ryanair again talks up C919 potential

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Ryanair has again talked up the potential of the Chinese-built Comac C919 twinjet after entering preliminary discussions with the manufacturer over the type earlier this year.

The budget carrier's intent regarding the aircraft remains unclear. Ryanair has been in the market for hundreds more aircraft but has not secured a deal with Boeing, its incumbent supplier, or Airbus.

"We believe this [C919] aircraft will be a real alternative to the existing duopoly of Boeing and Airbus," said Ryanair during its first-quarter results disclosure today.

"Real competition in the aircraft manufacturing industry will deliver more choice and lower costs for airlines. We also believe that it will make economic sense for Ryanair to become a two-aircraft operator if the present Boeing fleet economies can be matched or improved by another aircraft manufacturer."

Ryanair signed a memorandum of understand with Comanc in June covering talks over potential supply of 200-seat aircraft, with availability from 2018.

Its first quarter operating profit stayed largely flat at €170 million ($244 million), as did the company's pre-tax and net surplus.

The airline is maintaining its forecast of a full-year performance for 2011-12 "similar" to the €400 million after-tax profit achieved in 2010-11.

Passenger numbers for the quarter to 30 June rose by 18% over last year's ash-affected figures, reaching 21.3 million, which helped drive up revenues by 29% to €1.15 billion.

But the higher revenues were "largely offset" by higher operating costs as fuel sharply increased, by 49%, to €427 million.

Ryanair's outlook for the rest of the year is unchanged. It has "very limited visibility" on second-half bookings or yields but said it expects a strong first-half growth to be countered by a second-half dip owing to winter capacity cuts.