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Updates from Ryanair and Wizz Air showed a stellar recovery in demand for air travel into the looming peak summer getaway season, amid concern about the ability of stretched airports to cope with demand.
Both budget carriers reported soaring passenger numbers in June -- up by around 200% each -- rises which came in a month featuring scenes of chaos at London’s airports after the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
As holiday makers and business travellers have returned to the skies, a lack of ground staff after trouble recruiting baggage handlers and security personnel led to widespread delays and cancellations. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, launched a 22-point plan in June to minimise disruption in a bid to prevent scenes of disruption which blighted the Easter and Jubilee holidays.
The extent of the recovery at both airlines was stark. Ireland’s Ryanair carried 15.9 million people in June, up 203% year-on-year. Its load factor, or the proportion of seats filled on flights, rose to 95% from 72% in the same month a year ago.
Michael O’Leary, its chief executive, said in June that the airport staff shortages meant flight delays and cancellations would feature “right throughout the summer”, with the problem “worse at weekends and better during the week”. He also said he did not expect his airline’s main London hub at Stansted to suffer as much as Gatwick and Heathrow.
Wizz Air of Hungary flew 4.3 million people, up 179%. Its load factor reached 86.1% from 64%. It also said that volatile commodity prices meant it was re-starting a plan to hedge its fuel costs. It also said it was exploring “the potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft” having signed a memorandum of understanding with plane maker Airbus that would allow it to “analyse the potential for highly efficient, ultra-low-cost hydrogen powered operations.”
Ryanair shares rose 2% on Monday, while Wizz Air’s stock fell by 2.3%.