Ryanair hopes to operate 40% of normal levels from July as EU reopens
France is on UK's amber list – meaning travel is not recommended and travellers would need to quarantine on their return
Budget airline Ryanair has insisted it is confident that air travel will pick up in the coming months, despite posting record losses of €815million due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It said that it hopes to be operating 40% of its normal flight schedule from July.
The company said its loss after tax over the 12 months to 31 March – compared to profits of just over €1bn in the previous year – was a consequence of passenger numbers slumping 81% to just 27.5 million.
The airline said its bottom line had been hit hard by the pandemic as "European governments with little notice or co-ordination imposed flight bans, travel restrictions and national lockdowns".
It added that bookings had started to pick up in April as European nations started planning a cautious reopening of tourist destinations. Still, it did not see a return to pre-Covid-19 demand until summer 2022, assuming vaccine programmes remained on track.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said there were signs the "recovery has already begun".
"The rate of bookings suggests there is a huge amount of confidence," he told the BBC. "We are very optimistic for the next couple of months."
Bookings were up from 500,000 a week in early April to 1.5 million a week now, he said, as the UK permits travel without quarantine to 12 countries on its 'green list', which includes Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel.
France remains on the UK's amber list. This means travel for leisure is not recommended between the two countries, and returnees must pay for and take two PCR tests on their return to the UK and self-quarantine for 10 days.
The colour coding is set for review in two weeks and it is hoped France will change to green soon.
France is also set to operate a similar traffic light travel advice system and details are expected within the next few weeks. This system will relate to rules for travellers from France.
Ryanair added that a partial recovery last summer was hit by "constantly changing" guidelines that made operations difficult as the airline came under fire from passengers and consumer groups over refunds.
Despite criticism from passengers and consumer groups over its handling of refunds for cancelled flights over the past 12 months, Ryanair said it had handled the situation "effectively".
It said it had managed to minimise job losses through negotiated pay cuts and by accessing government support schemes, including those in the UK.