Strong bookings keep Ryanair on course to hit targets, says CEO

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FILE PHOTO: Ryanair GGroup Chief Executive Michael O'Leary attends the Europe Aviation Summit in Brussels

LISBON (Reuters) -Ryanair is on track to hit upgraded guidance on passenger numbers, carrying more than 10 million people this month as a post-pandemic recovery continues with strong bookings to year-end, Group Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said.

The Irish airline last month said it expected to fly between 90 million and 100 million people in the 12 months to the end of March 2022, against a peak of 149 million before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ryanair is recovering strongly, much faster than other any airline in Europe … Bookings are increasing very rapidly,” O’Leary told a news conference in Lisbon on Tuesday.

After flying 5 million passengers in June, representing a third of 2019 levels, numbers soared to 9.3 million in July and are expected to reach about 10.5 million in August, he added.

Ryanair shares rose 2.5% to 16.49 euros in early trading.

“Bookings for the remainder of this year, through September, October, November are looking very strong, but pricing is weak … We are selling a lot of cheap seats to recover the market very quickly,” O’Leary said.

The airline also said it will cease operations at Belfast’s two airports from the end of the summer schedule in October, citing the British government’s refusal to suspend or reduce air passenger duty and a lack of post-pandemic recovery incentives from both airports.

“These aircraft will be reallocated to lower-cost airports elsewhere in the UK and Europe for the winter schedule, which starts in November,” the company said in a statement.

(Reporting by Sergio GoncalvesAdditional reporting Graham FahyWriting by Andrei KhalipEditing by David Goodman)

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