Ryanair says UK growth halved by Brexit

 31 Aug 2016 - 17:32

Ryanair says UK growth halved by Brexit
Chief Executive Officer of Irish airline Ryanair Michael O'Leary gestures during a press conference at a hotel in London on August 31, 2016. AFP / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

London: Brexit uncertainty will more than halve Ryanair's UK growth, Europe's largest airline said Wednesday, as it urged Britain to prove it was open for business post-Brexit by building three new London runways.

Michael O'Leary, the Irish low-fares carrier's chief executive, said Ryanair was experiencing 15 percent growth in Britain in the current financial year.

However, this was expected to slow to six percent in the financial year starting April 2017.

He told a press conference in London that Ryanair's UK growth would have continued in double-digits had Britain not voted in June to leave the European Union.

O'Leary had campaigned vociferously for Britain to stay in the EU.

"Ryanair will not base more aircraft in Britain until there is more post-Brexit certainty," he said.

O'Leary said that following the Brexit vote, bookings dipped and so fares were slashed, while the weaker British pound meant travellers into Britain were getting more for their money.

"Your euro went 12 percent further. That was London and the UK's gain," he said.

"The impact of Brexit is masked in the airlines lowering fares significantly," he added.

The company said European summer holidaymakers were now less inclined to go to Turkey and Greece, with British and German sun-seekers heading in greater numbers to southern Spain and Portugal instead.

Ryanair's strongest growth next year is expected in Germany and Poland.

O'Leary also urged new British Prime Minister Theresa May to make quick decisions on expanding airport capacity around London, after years of government pondering.

The government is weighing up whether to build a new runway at London Heathrow or London Gatwick.

But O'Leary urged them to build them both -- plus another runway at London Stansted, its own UK hub -- as by the time one new runway is completed, its capacity will already be full.

"It will be the acid test of Theresa May's new government, post-Brexit," he said.

Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs meanwhile said that this year more people were now searching for the company's flights on their mobile phones than on desktop computers.

In future Ryanair hopes its mobile phone app will become the core way of booking.

Ryanair said it had 170 million customers flying out of 84 bases. Some 27 percent of its customers are now flying on business.

The company said its average airfare was 46 euros ($39).