Many Ryanair flights could be free in a decade, says its chief

Many seats on Ryanair flights could be free in a decade’s time, the airline’s chief executive has said.

Michael O’Leary said his ambition was to offer zero fares – with the airline making its money from sharing revenues with airports where it had attracted passengers.

Speaking at the Airport Operators Association conference in London, he said the increasingly attractive deals being offered to his airline by European airports, as well as the possible reduction or abolition of taxes such as air passenger duty (APD), would eventually allow his airline to give away flights.

He said: “The challenge for us in the future is to keep driving air fares down. I have this vision that in the next five to 10 years that the air fares on Ryanair will be free, in which case the flights will be full, and we will be making our money out of sharing the airport revenues; of all the people who will be running through airports, and getting a share of the shopping and the retail revenues at airports.”

The Irish airline expects to carry 119m passengers this year and is growing its aircraft fleet rapidly, with capacity to pass 200m by 2024. Most of that growth, O’Leary said, would come from “taking price sensitive passengers off incumbents like Air Berlin in Germany, Lot in Poland and Alitalia in Italy”.

He added: “I think it will happen. It just won’t happen at Heathrow or those big hub airports. But most of the other airports who are looking for big traffic growth, that process is already starting to happen, lowering airport fees and some of the charges.”

O’Leary said: “If [air passenger duty] is gone: at many airports I’m paying more than £20 already with APD and fees, if I start getting that back, why not? I’m doing seat sales this week at £4 and I’m paying the £13 APD – I’m paying you to fly with me.

“Instead of promotional tickets being £9 or £5 they will be free.”

Average fares on Ryanair last year were €46 (£39), including one checked bag, and Ryanair has said they will fall by 10% to 15% this year. About a quarter of the airlines’s income is from add-ons such as car hire and inflight sales.

The Guardian

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