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Ryanair CEO sees ‘very strong recovery’, nudges up passenger target By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary speaks during a Reuters Newsmaker event in London, Britain October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Ryanair has nudged up its passenger target for the autumn amid signs of a “very strong recovery” in European short-haul flights, Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, is expected to fly 10.5 million passengers per month in September, October and November, O’Leary said.

That compares with a July forecast of an average of 10 million for each of those months..

“As long as there are no adverse COVID developments, things are set fair for a very strong recovery,” O’Leary said ahead of a press briefing in Brussels.

The CEO also said Ryanair was on target to exceed its 10.5 million passenger target for August.

Capacity should return to pre-pandemic levels in October, from close to 90% in September and 80% in August, he added. But the airline is likely to fly with an average of 15-20% empty seats on planes this winter compared with 7-8% before the pandemic.

“Through the winter, pricing will continue to build, but it will still be below (pre-)COVID,” he said. “We don’t expect pricing to go back to pre-COVID levels until the summer of 2022.”

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