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Ryanair slashes losses but Omicron hit winter bookings

LONDON (AFP) – Ryanair slashed losses in the final quarter of 2021 but the emergence of the Omicron variant cut into the normally busy winter holiday travel season, the no-frills airline said yesterday.

Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said the reporting period started well, with strong bookings as there was “less confusion” about the British government’s “absurd ‘traffic light system’” to rank Covid risks from countries.

Britain is a key market for the airline based in neighbouring Ireland and which flies throughout Europe. Bookings continued to improve in November but “the sudden emergence of the Omicron variant” and “the media hysteria it generated” forced European governments to reimpose travel restrictions towards the end of the quarter, O’Leary said.

The measures in the runup to Christmas “significantly weakened peak” Christmas and New Year bookings and fares, he said.

Net losses stood at USD107 million in the company’s third quarter, a third of the figure for the same period in 2020.

Ryanair said its full-year traffic forecast was unchanged at just under 100 million passengers

Ryanair said its full-year traffic forecast was unchanged at “just under 100 million passengers”.

Its net loss guidance stayed at between eur250 million and eur450 million.

“This outturn is hugely sensitive to any further positive or negative Covid news flow and so we would caution all shareholders to expect further Covid disruptions,” O’Leary warned.

The United Kingdom (UK) government in December reimposed stricter travel rules – including mandatory pre-arrival tests and self-isolation until travellers had tested negative – after a surge in cases due to Omicron. However, the travel measures are being eased, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued they were having a “limited impact” while imposing “significant costs” on the industry.

The government will scrap compulsory Covid tests from February 11 for fully jabbed arrivals and quarantine for unvaccinated travellers.

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