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DUBLIN: Ryanair said yesterday it was impossible to give detailed 2022 guidance beyond hoping for a return to “reasonable profitability” amid uncertainties over Covid-19 and the Ukraine war, knocking its shares despite a smaller annual loss.

Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers also became the latest Boeing customer to criticise the planemaker. Chief executive Michael O’Leary (pix) said its management needed to step up and deliver aircraft more quickly or make way for a new team.

Ryanair posted a €355 million (RM1.6 billion) loss for the pandemic-scarred 12 months to March 31 and said it planned to grow traffic to 165 million passengers this year, from 97 million a year ago and a pre-Covid-19 record of 149 million.

However, O’Leary said it was “impractical, if not impossible” to provide a sensible or accurate target until the second half of its fiscal year.

He added that while bookings had improved in recent weeks, he was a little concerned that competitors were talking up the summer recovery too much and that caution was needed heading into a winter with an expected economic downturn.

“It’s too fragile, there remains too many moving parts,” O’Leary said, adding that Ryanair would nevertheless thrive if any of its markets dip into recession due to its lower cost base.

CFO Neil Sorahan told Reuters that fares were lower in recent weeks than anticipated. While cautiously optimistic that peak summer fares will be “somewhat ahead” of pre-pandemic levels, O’Leary said it was impossible to predict winter pricing.

Customers were also still waiting until much closer than usual to the time of their trips to book.

O’Leary also said that while Ryanair remained a willing Boeing customer and hoped to receive more 737-8200 jets than planned over the next two summers, it could turn to the second-hand leasing market to fuel further growth unless Boeing stepped up with some additional orders.

Ryanair has issued a market tender for 50 jets, industry sources say.

Ryanair last year walked away from negotiations with Boeing for 200 of its largest single-aisle aircraft: the upcoming 737 MAX 10.

O’Leary described Boeing management yesterday as “running around like headless chickens” and said “they need to … improve”.

“Boeing need a management reboot in Seattle and either the existing management needs to up its game or they need to change the existing management,” he told analysts.

Boeing declined comment.

O’Leary said Ryanair, which has hedged 80% of its 2023 fuel needs and 10% for 2024, would likely be profitable in the coming year, even if the outlook was worse than anticipated but that it would be significantly behind pre-pandemic levels.

Ryanair shares ended down 0.2%. – Reuters

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