Ryanair Holdings today (7 Nov.) reported a strong half-year after tax profit of €1.37bn, compared to a pre- Covid (FY20) H1 profit of €1.15bn, due to record Q2 traffic, strong operational reliability and robust summer fares which in Q2 were 14% up on pre-Covid pricing.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, said:
“We continue to invest heavily in fuel efficient, environmentally friendly new aircraft technology. Passengers who switch to Ryanair (from high-fare EU legacy airlines) can reduce their emissions by up to 50% per flight, proving that with Ryanair tourism growth can be delivered in a more sustainable manner. During S.22 we operated 73 new B737 “Gamechanger” aircraft, which deliver 4% more seats per flight yet burn 16% less fuel and cut noise emissions by up to 40%.
We continue to invest to accelerate the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Our partnership with Trinity College’s Sustainable Aviation Research Centre is now in its second year and its activity has ramped up significantly. Building on the recent success of our partnership with Neste to power up to one third of our Schiphol flights (AMS) with a 40% SAF blend, we signed a long-term deal with OMV in Sep. to purchase up to 160,000 tonnes of SAF at Ryanair airports across Austria, Germany and CEE. Ryanair hopes to power 12.5% of flights using SAF and cut our CO₂ per pax/km by 10% to 60 grams by 2030. As part of our carbon strategy, the Group recently concluded an agreement to retro-fit scimitar winglets on our 409 B737-800NG fleet (an investment valued at over $200m). This retro-fit program commences in W.22 and will further reduce fuel burn by 1.5%. Through A4E, and the EU, we are campaigning to accelerate reform of European ATC to eliminate needless flight delays, which will substantially reduce fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions.
In recognition of our progress to date and our industry leading (CDP ‘B’) climate rating, Sustainalytics has ranked Ryanair the No.1 airline in Europe for ESG performance. In June we submitted Ryanair’s commitment letter to SBTi and we will work with them over the next 2 years to verify our ambitious targets to become net carbon zero by 2050.
At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ryanair and its union partners negotiated agreements to protect crew jobs via temporary pay cuts which were to be gradually restored from 2022 to 2025. These agreements successfully delivered job security through the 2 years of the Covid pandemic, as Ryanair maintained not only the jobs but also the licences of our crews. This investment positioned Ryanair as the best prepared airline for the post-Covid traffic recovery. By keeping our crews current, and recruiting early, Ryanair avoided the crew shortages which caused so many competitor cancellations and disruptions in Summer 2022. Since Spring 2022 we have worked with our union partners to negotiate accelerated pay restoration as part of long-term deals on pay and rosters which run until 2026 or 2027. Long-term agreements have, to date, been concluded to cover over 90% of our pilots and cabin crew.
Under these long-term agreements, full pay restoration was brought forward by 24 months to Apr. 2023, subject to our business recovery. However, following the Group’s strong H1 financial and operational performance, we will now bring forward the full restoration of pay for all crews covered by these long-term agreements to 1 Dec. 2022 (instead of Apr. 2023). These crews will now receive their full pay restoration in the Christmas payroll. While considerable uncertainty hovers over the remainder of FY23, it has always been our priority to restore pay as soon as our business recovers. These long-term pay agreements with the vast majority of our people have now delivered fully restored pay 28 months earlier than previously agreed, and they will also deliver annual pay increases from 2024 until 2026 as we create thousands of new well-paid crew jobs and grow traffic to 225m p.a. by FY26.
We have written today to the tiny minority of unions representing the less than 10% of pilots and cabin crew who have so far failed to reach agreements on accelerated restoration, urging them to return to negotiations. We look forward to concluding early agreements with them on similar terms to the existing negotiated agreements which will then cover all of our people.
Training, Customer Panel & CSAT:
Ryanair recently took delivery of the first of 8 new CAE full flight simulators (value over $80m). We will expand our state-of-the art training facilities over the next 3-years and are close to selecting suitable locations for 2 new training centres (a €100m investment) in CEE and the Iberian Peninsula. Over recent months we’ve continued to invest in engineering and maintenance, and announced new hangar facilities in Malta, Kaunas (Lith.) and Shannon (Ire.). These new facilities will enable us to create more cadets and apprenticeships for school leavers, bringing through the next generation of highly skilled aviation professionals.
Over 37,000 of our passengers recently applied to join our Customer Panel which has expanded to include reps from Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The new Panel met in Dublin in Oct. and provided valuable insights and suggestions to help us to further improve Ryanair’s offers and customer care. While CSAT scores were impacted by numerous ATC delays/strikes this summer and lengthy airport security queues (particularly in Q1), Ryanair’s operational resilience, reliability and friendly crew meant that we still recorded a very strong 83% rating across H1.
OP. PERFORMANCE & GROWTH:
Our Group airlines delivered an industry leading operations performance and robust post Covid traffic recovery in H1. This summer we operated at 115% of our pre-Covid capacity, completed over 3,000 daily flights and delivered record traffic across peak S.22, despite unprecedented ATC disruptions and regrettable airport security delays (primarily in Q1).
We had 73 Gamechangers in our fleet for peak S.22. Our growth is being hampered by Boeing’s inability to meet its delivery schedule in Q3, despite their previous assurances that Ryanair deliveries would be “prioritised”. We expect Boeing will only deliver 10 or 12 of the contracted 21 Gamechangers due before Christmas. Boeing assure us that they will deliver all scheduled 51 Gamechangers ahead of peak S.23, although there is a risk that some of these deliveries could slip. We are planning FY24 growth based on 51 extra aircraft for peak S.23 and we continue to recruit and train substantial numbers of pilots, cabin crew and engineers. During H1, Ryanair announced 100 new routes for W.22 and most of our S.23 capacity is now on sale on www.ryanair.com. Our Routes teams continue to lock-in long term traffic recovery growth deals with airport partners across Europe which will reinforce Ryanair’s market share growth and cost leadership in Europe.
Over the past 3 years, numerous airlines went bankrupt and many legacy carriers (incl. Alitalia, TAP, SAS and LOT) significantly cut their fleets and passenger capacity, even while ‘doping’ on multi-billion-euro State Aid packages. These structural capacity reductions have created enormous growth opportunities for Ryanair to deploy our new, fuel efficient, B737 Gamechangers and as a result our market shares have surged across major EU markets. Our reliability, lowest (ex-fuel) unit costs, very strong fuel and US$ hedges, fleet ownership and strong balance sheet ensures that the Group is well placed to grow profitability and traffic to 225m p.a. by FY26.
H1 FY23 BUSINESS REVIEW:
Revenue & Costs:
H1 scheduled revenues increased almost 250% to €4.42bn as traffic recovered strongly from 39.1m to 95.1m (at a 94% load factor). Record Q2 traffic and strong peak summer fares (+14% over pre-Covid) offset a weak Easter in Q1, which saw traffic and fares damaged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late Feb. Ancillary revenue delivered a solid performance with spend increasing to €23 per passenger. Total revenue jumped by over 200% to €6.62bn.
While sectors more than doubled and traffic increased 143%, operating costs rose just 126% to €4.98bn (incl. a 205% increase in fuel to €2.18bn), driven by lower variable costs, higher load factors and improved fuel burn from our Gamechanger fleet. Cost per passenger (ex-fuel) fell below €30 in H1 (slightly lower than the same period pre-Covid).
Our FY23 jet fuel requirements are 81% hedged at an ave. of $67bbl and during H1 we raised our FY24 jet fuel hedges to 50% at approx. $93bbl. Forex is also well hedged with over 80% of FY23 €/$ opex hedged at 1.14 and almost 20% of FY24 hedged at 1.08. Our Boeing order book is fully hedged at €/$ 1.24 out to FY26. This very strong hedge position helps insulate Ryanair from recent spikes in fuel prices and the US$ and gives our Group airlines a huge cost advantage over our EU competitors, especially this winter and into FY24.
Balance Sheet & Liquidity:
Ryanair’s balance sheet is one of the strongest in the industry with a BBB (stable) credit rating (S&P and Fitch). Net debt at 30 Sep. has fallen to €0.5bn (from €1.45bn at 31 Mar.), despite €0.9bn capex. Almost all of the Group’s fleet of B737s are owned and over 90% are unencumbered which widens our cost advantage at a time when interest rates and leasing costs of our competitors are rising. Our focus over the next year is the repayment of €1.6bn of maturing bonds while returning our balance sheet to a broadly zero net debt position. The strength of our balance sheet ensures that the Group is well positioned to exploit the many growth opportunities that are currently emerging as we grow to 225m passenger p.a. by FY26.
RECESSION & PRICE INFLATION:
Concerns about the impact of recession and rising consumer price inflation on Ryanair’s business model have been greatly exaggerated in recent months. As the lowest cost producer in Europe, we expect to grow strongly in a recession as consumers won’t stop flying, but rather they will become more price sensitive. Like Aldi, Lidl, Ikea and other price leaders our very strong post Covid recovery shows that price will continue to drive market share gains as we add low cost, more fuel efficient, aircraft to our fleet over the next 4 years. As Europe recovers from the 2-year Covid pandemic there has been a considerable contraction of short haul capacity, much of which will not return in the medium term. Most of our EU competitors have cut capacity by up to 20% this Winter while Ryanair will offer 10% more seats than pre-Covid.
As our H1 traffic and market share growth shows, millions of passengers are switching to fly with Ryanair for our lower prices, our industry leading reliability and our greener, fuel efficient aircraft. Consumer propensity to travel remains high in Europe as a result of full employment, rising wages and 2 years of pent-up-demand and accumulated savings while people were ‘locked up’ during Covid. We expect these strong fundamentals will continue to underpin robust traffic and ave. fare growth for the next 18-months at least, and Ryanair will be the main beneficiary of these trends so long as there are no negative developments this Winter such as Covid variants or Ukraine.
The recovery for the remainder of FY23 remains fragile and could yet be impacted by new Covid variants or adverse geopolitical events such as Ukraine. However forward bookings (both traffic and fares) remain strong over the Oct. school mid-terms and into the peak Christmas travel period. We hope to avoid any repeat of last year’s Omicron lockdowns which damaged last Christmas at such short notice. As is normal, at this time of year, we have almost zero visibility into Q4 which is traditionally our weakest quarter and which this year doesn’t have any Easter benefit.
While we remain dependent on Boeing meeting their delivery commitments, especially for Christmas extras and Spring mid-term, we are modestly raising our FY23 traffic guidance to 168m passengers (previously 166.5m), up 13% on our pre-Covid traffic. We remain hopeful that full-year fares will remain ahead of FY20 (pre-Covid) by a mid-to-high single digit percentage but we remain cautious that yields could be impacted at very short notice in H2 as they were last year by Omicron in late Nov. which damaged Christmas and the Ukraine invasion on 24 Feb. which so clearly damaged Mar. and Apr. traffic. If we are fortunate to avoid such negative events like Covid and Ukraine in H2 then, thanks to our very strong traffic recovery, our advantageous fuel and currency hedges and our widening cost and market share leadership over competitors, we are hopeful that we will minimise our winter losses which would enable us to deliver an FY23 PAT (pre-exceptionals) in a range of €1.00bn to €1.20bn. This cautious guidance will remain hugely dependent on not suffering adverse events this Winter (as we did last, which were clearly beyond our control).”