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Ryanair boss: air fares to rise this summer as plane problems plague airlines

Air fares in Europe will rise by five to 10 per cent this summer, Ryanair’s boss has said.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary told reporters: “Fares in summer 2024 are going to be up again on summer 2023.

“We’re doing our budgets based on a fare increase of between five to 10 per cent.”

Last year, Ryanair’s average air fares rose by 17 per cent, Mr O’Leary said.

There appears no sign of any dampening of post-Covid demand for travel. In normal circumstances airlines would increase capacity in response – but the supply of seats is seriously constrained by problems affecting both the main aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing.

Ryanair is Europe’s biggest budget airline, and flies only Boeing 737 aircraft. Its plans for summer 2024 were based on the delivery of 57 new planes by the end of March. But Mr O’Leary said: “It could be 45. It could be 40. We’re genuinely not sure.”

The number of flights handled by Eurocontrol remains significantly below 2019 levels. In the week of 12-18 February, traffic was 8 per cent down on the same spell before the pandemic – though Ryanair is ahead of pre-pandemic numbers.

Boeing has been unable to increase the rate of deliveries of 737 Max aircraft following an inflight scare in January, when a door plug blew out from the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 shortly after take off from Portland, Oregon. The aircraft landed safely, but quality-control concerns have led to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to demand close supervision that does not allow for an increase in deliveries.

Earlier this month, Boeing’s president and CEO Dave Calhoun said: “An event like this must not happen on an airplane that leaves our factory.

“We simply must do better for our customers and their passengers. We are implementing a comprehensive plan to strengthen quality and the confidence of our stakeholders.”

Europe’s third-largest low-cost carrier, Wizz Air, is also facing a shortage of aircraft. Like most short-haul European airlines, it uses Airbus A320 series planes. Some are powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF (geared turbofan) engines. The engine maker has identified a potential problem of contamination in the powder metal used for some key components. As a result the engines must be inspected earlier, with the power plants removed, disassembled and put back together by specialist teams.

Wizz Air told investors it may have to ground 10 per cent of its fleet temporarily. The carrier’s UK managing director, Marion Geoffroy, said Wizz Air would have “flat capacity compared to last summer”.

But she told The Independent: “In 2025 when the situation normalises, then we’ll have a massive expansion.”

Lufthansa, the giant German airline group says it is likely to ground around 20 aircraft at any one time during the summer.

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