Ryanair has announced a number of new routes from Belfast International Airport (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Wire)

Ryanair has announced a number of new routes from Belfast International Airport (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Wire)

Ryanair waded into the travel chaos fight on Monday, blaming airports for not hiring enough staff as it emerged as the clear post-pandemic winner in the airline trade.

With rivals stumbling and Heathrow mired in turmoil, Ryanair turned a profit of e170 million for the first quarter compared to a loss of e273 million for the same period a year ago.

That was better than expected and far ahead of rivals who are racking up losses and cancelling flights at an equal pace.

Chief financial officer Neil Sorahan put the blame for air travel cancellations on airports. He said: “You have to hold ANSPs [air navigation service providers] and various governments to account in relation to not staffing up appropriately for that. Equally the airports themselves, they had one job to do to and that was to make sure they have sufficient handlers and security staff. They had the schedules months in advance.”

At the weekend, former BA boss Willie Walsh and former Heathrow chairman Sir Nigel Rudd locked horns, with each blaming the other for ruining the summer travel plans of thousands of people.

Rudd says Walsh devalued the BA brand with cost cuts, Walsh says Heathrow’s move to restrict passenger numbers to 100,000 a day is “farcical”.

In contrast, Ryanair has won praise for keeping hold of staff during furlough which has enabled a swifter bounce back than rivals such as Easyjet.

Revenue in the quarter soared 602% to e2.6 billion, a stark illustration of how keen Brits are to get abroad after two years stuck at home with Covid.

The airline warned that new variants of Covid could still derail the recovery. Ryanair said it can’t predict what full year profits will be for that reason.

Allegra Dawes at City research firm Third Bridge said:

“Ryanair is leading its peers in the recovery from COVID and plans to operate its summer 2022 at a capacity 15% higher than 2019 levels. Our experts estimate revenue for this summer could be 20% higher than in 2019. The international travel recovery remains fragile due to a worldwide pilot shortage and the problem with labour strikes. However, our experts say that Ryanair has been more successful than others in coping with the crisis because it didn’t significantly reduce its workforce during the pandemic.”

Some rivals who have failed to hedge against rising fuel fees are seeing costs spiral. Ryanair, which does hedge, is presently paying $60 a barrel for fuel compared to a market rate of about $105 today.

Stephen Furlong at Davy said Ryanair’s results are “best in class” and notes that the company has reached agreement with most of its pilots and cabin crews on pay, which means strikes should be avoided.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Our decision to work with our unions and agree on pay cuts to minimise job losses (and keep crews current) throughout the two years of COVID was vindicated in recent months, as many European airlines, airports, and handling companies struggled to restore jobs that were cut during the pandemic.”

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