O'Leary unveils Ryanair expansion blueprint
The boss of budget airline Ryanair outlined ambitious expansion plans today that would see the airline almost double the number of passengers and stretch its reach across Europe.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary told the Financial Times that he wanted to increase passenger numbers to between 120 million and 130 million over the next decade - which would make Ryanair one of the biggest airlines in the world.
Mr O'Leary said the airline is in talks with plane makers Boeing, Comac in China, and Russia's Irkut over the purchase of 200 to 300 new narrow-bodied aircraft.
Dublin-based Ryanair carried 72.1 million passengers in 2010/11 but the plans could double the size of its fleet of about 270 aircraft.
Mr O'Leary added that Ryanair could increase its share of the European market as the tough economic environment boosts demand for low-cost travel.
The outspoken Irishman said the airline could deploy 50 new aircraft to serve Scandinavia and a further 100 to service the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The airline paid a 500 million euro (£431 million) special dividend in 2010/11 and Mr O'Leary said another payment is under consideration for 2012/13.
A third special dividend could be paid in 2014/15 if no aircraft order had been finalised by then.
All of Ryanair's planes are manufactured by US manufacturer Boeing, and analysts said costs could increase if it bought aircraft from another maker.
Mr O'Leary is well-known for courting controversy with his cost-cutting suggestions, which have included charging to use the toilets on planes, removing a toilet, standing passenger space, and scrapping the role of the co-pilot.