Belfast Telegraph

City of Derry expects Ryanair to continue air links

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary

By John Mulligan

City of Derry Airport has said it expects Ryanair to maintain both its air links to the airport next summer.

It followed comments from the low-cost airline's boss Michael O'Leary yesterday, who warned of plans to cut and close bases at airports from November through to next summer.

Ryanair operates 15 flights from Belfast International Airport and two from City of Derry.

The carrier said it will slow its capacity growth for the coming winter and next summer due to delivery delays for Boeing's beleaguered 737 Max jet. The Max has been grounded all over the world since the spring after two deadly crashes revealed problems with its anti-stall system.

Ryanair has ordered a Max variant - the Max200 - which will likely take an extra few months to be certified after the Max itself.

That's left Ryanair eyeing a December start to its deliveries.

"Since Ryanair can only take delivery of between six to eight new aircraft each month, we are now planning our summer 2020 schedules based on taking up to 30 B737 Max aircraft deliveries up to end of May 2020," said Mr O'Leary, who added that Ryanair's summer 2020 growth rate will now be more than halved from 7% to 3%.

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That's expected to see the airline carry about 157 million passengers in the financial year to the end of March 2021, compared to a previous estimate of about 162 million.

"This shortfall in aircraft deliveries will necessitate some base cuts and closures for summer 2020, but also for the winter 2019 schedule," said the chief executive.

"We are starting a series of discussions with our airports to determine which of Ryanair's under-performing or loss-making bases should suffer these short-term cuts and/or closures from November 2019," he added.

A spokesperson for City of Derry Airport confirmed it expects the airport to operate the same level of services from Ryanair next summer.

The low-cost carrier axed its Derry-to-London air link in 2016. It continues to operate five flights per week to Edinburgh and three each week to Liverpool.

No one from Belfast International Airport was available to comment.

Shares in Ryanair rose as much as 1.6% yesterday, and shares in other carriers also got a boost, as investors bet that moderated capacity growth in the European market will help to lift yields, or the average ticket price that passengers pay.

But Goodbody Stockbrokers warned that such optimism might be misplaced.

"While the market may see this as a positive for yields next year, we think it is too early to make such a call as slowing capacity into this year failed to bolster pricing, as market demand was hit by the deteriorating macro environment," said analyst Mark Simpson.

Trade union Forsa, which represents Ryanair pilots and cabin crew in the Republic, said the announcement was "of concern".

Belfast Telegraph