Ryanair continues flights to Rhodes despite wildfires as profits quadruple

11 months ago 19

Ryanair has said its flights to Rhodes are operating as normal and are unaffected by forest fires that have prompted large-scale evacuations of the Greek island, as it reported a near quadrupling of profits in the spring.

The airline reported a surge in profits in the three months to the end of June to €663m (£572m) in marked contrast to the same period in 2022, when profits were €170m because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ryanair said the figure was also down to a strong Easter and the extra bank holiday for King Charles’s coronation.

As demand for air travel soars, thousands of people were evacuated from the popular holiday island of Rhodes in Greece. About 19,000 people have been forced to flee wildfires fanned by high winds and extreme heat on the island. Some wildfires have also broken out on the separate island of Corfu, off Greece’s western coast.

Ryanair said it continued to operate flights as usual to Rhodes airport – which is not in an area directly affected by the fires so far. The company operates flights to Rhodes from airports including London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin. Despite the emergency evacuations and wildfires it said: “Ryanair flights to/from Rhodes and Corfu are currently operating as normal and unaffected by the forest fires.”

The company’s Twitter accounts had not posted any information on the situation by Monday morning, instead posting a joke on Sunday night about Elon Musk’s announcement that Twitter will change its name. Ryanair did say on its website that it was accepting temporary travel documentation issued by the Greek police for travellers who had lost their passports during the scramble to avoid wildfires.

Consumer group Which? on Sunday said it would be “unconscionable for holiday companies to cash in on travellers’ sensible decision not to travel by not refunding or rebooking them” if they decided not to travel to Rhodes. Some airlines have said they will allow passengers to rebook.

EasyJet has said it will operate two repatriation flights on Monday from Rhodes to London Gatwick, in addition to scheduled flights, plus a third repatriation flight on Tuesday. Tui said on Sunday evening that all passengers due to travel to Rhodes, up to and including on Tuesday, would receive full refunds.

Ryanair is operating its largest ever summer schedule, carrying as many as 600,000 passengers on 3,200 flights a day. The company said that “European short-haul capacity remains constrained this summer” and that demand for the first half of the year “is robust”.

However, chief executive Michael O’Leary said Ryanair would probably have to cut prices to attract passengers this winter, when it will have 25% more seats to fill than in 2019. At the same time, rising interest rates are gradually affecting more people, raising the costs for some mortgage borrowing and reducing disposable incomes.

“We’re concerned about the impact of these macroeconomic trends,” O’Leary said in an analyst presentation on Monday. “Consumer price inflation, higher interest rates, higher mortgage rates might affect consumer spending in the second half of the year.”

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Ryanair shares were down by 4% on Monday, while British Airways’ owner IAG fell by 2%, easyJet was down by 3.5% and Tui fell by 2.5%.

Ryanair also highlighted uncertainty over when it would receive new planes ordered from US manufacturer Boeing to try to meet growing demand for air travel. Ryanair said that delivery of the 737 Max aircraft – ordered at steep discounts when the manufacturer was struggling to regain trust after two fatal crashes – had been affected by the collapse of a train bridge over the Yellowstone river in Montana, forcing Boeing to move plane fuselages by road.

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