Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has revealed his intention for the airline to offer free flight tickets according to the Guardian newspaper.
O’Leary outlined his airline’s plans, last week, to cut fares and fly even more people. He outlined that this was “great news for all the bankers and robbers assembled in this room who will not be reducing their charges, and who will all be making out like highwaymen and bandits as they continue to see rising passenger numbers at their airports, rising retail sales and rising restaurant sales. All on the back of the poor stupid Irish who will be carrying all these people at even lower prices.”
After his rant, O’Leary shared his dream: “I have this vision that in the next five to 10 years 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 Stansted airport, Ryanair’s biggest UK base, the short distance to the departure gates can only be negotiated via an IKEA style maze of tempting duty-free ending with the food and drink section offering the third-most-lucrative Pret a Manger in Britain for those wanting to buy a decent bite for the flight. It must, however, be noted that in return for bringing in increased passengers, Ryanair pays lower charges.
Almost 80% of Stansted’s passengers now fly with Ryanair, and the airport’s income from aeronautical charges fell from £148m to £141m in 2016, even though passenger numbers rose by 11% to 23.1 million. With average spending of £5.70 per person (including parking) – Stansted’s overall revenues still rose by 5%.
Of course Ryanair’s bargain fares are supplemented with expensive add-ons, from bags to booking fees. Pre-booked bags still generate a sizeable chunk of the €3.2bn revenue Ryanair took in the first half of 2016; ancillary revenues (car hire, seat selection, onboard food) made nearly another €1bn.
Regardless, free is unlikely to happen at popular airports and during school holidays, but Ryanair has increased leverage at airports which are keen for growth. At these airports the nirvana of free fares may well be possible, as long as you can bear travelling Ryanair.
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