Ryanair could be ‘last person standing,’ says boss

Simon Calder
·3-min read
Ground stop: a Ryanair Boeing 737 flies past lines of parked aircraft at Stansted airport (Simon Calder)
Ground stop: a Ryanair Boeing 737 flies past lines of parked aircraft at Stansted airport (Simon Calder)

As travel across Europe becomes tangled in an increasing number of restrictions, the boss of Ryanair’s main division has said his airline could be “the last person standing” when the coronavirus pandemic finally eases.

Eddie Wilson, who is chief executive of Ryanair DAC, was speaking on a new podcast, Inside Ryanair.

“I think when this ends we will come back stronger,” Mr Wilson told the in-house programme.

“If you prepare well, and better than your competitors, then you’re going to be in a better position.

“We have a strong balance sheet. That allows you to be the last person standing in an apocalyptic scenario.”

He said that Ryanair owns over 70 per cent of its aircraft, which provided an advantage.

“Even when our aircraft are sitting on the ground, we’re not paying expensive leases,” he said.

“Most of our competitors – those in long haul for example – could be sitting on the ground still paying lease rates of €1-€1.5m [£910,000-£1.4m) a month.

“We have been able to deal with our people in flexing their work throughout this winter, on the basis that they can come back full time next summer, rather than going for quick redundancy.

“If that makes sense for the people then it makes sense for us.

“So if you’ve got the money, you’ve got the aircraft, you’ve got the people, you’ve got the cost base at the airports, then you are in a much better position than those that are scrambling around, running out of cash, looking for short-term deals all the time, selling their aircraft, firing their people.

“Norwegian is gone, easyJet are getting smaller.”

While Norwegian is consulting on redundancies at Gatwick, the airline fully intends to resume flying at scale.

Last week the easyJet chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said: "easyJet came into this crisis in a very strong position thanks to its strong balance sheet and consistent profitability. This year will be the first time in its history that easyJet has ever made a full year loss.

"I would like to thank everyone at easyJet who has worked tirelessly to manage through this period. I believe that, as a result, and due to our decisive response to the pandemic, we are well positioned for the recovery”.

The Ryanair DAC boss also used the podcast to condemn the governments in Dublin and London for adding new travel restrictions.

Ireland’s “Green List” – the register of nations from which arrivals to the republic need not quarantine – has this week shrunk to zero.

The UK has steadily reduced the number of countries from which travellers can arrive without two weeks of self-isolation.

Mr Wilson said: “We are closing down the connectivity at the moment and thinking it is going to bounce back. It is not going to bounce back.

“What they risk doing is: we will put our aircraft where we can get the best return.”

He cautioned against over-reliance on a vaccine for Covid-19, saying: “People look at vaccines as though it’s going to be a panacea for everything, like it’s going to arrive like an app on your phone.

“Everyone wants an instant solution. There isn’t going to be an instant solution.

“We may as well all hole up in a cave forever and think this thing is going to pass. We’re going to have to live with it.”

Mr Wilson also mocked the organisational approach adopted by some other companies: “There was a guy from Harvard Business School, I think it was back in 2000, who came to interview us.

“He asked me what was the mission statement for the company.

“I said we didn’t have one, but I broadly thought it was to make money.”

The Ryanair share price has dropped 30 per cent since its peak in March 2018.

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