Ryanair Holdings Plc posted another year of slower passenger growth as the discount carrier’s battle with unions, bad weather and industrywide air-traffic-control strikes took a toll.
Passenger numbers for the 12 months through December rose 8 percent to 139.2 million tickets sold, Ryanair said Thursday. Even with the addition of Austria’s Laudamotion, the increase was smaller than 2017’s 10 percent and the 17 percent gain registered in 2016.
By comparison, smaller rival Wizz Air Holdings Plc posted a 20 percent passenger jump in 2018. The Budapest-based upstart has stepped up its challenge to Ryanair and EasyJet Plc by tapping faster growth in Eastern Europe and boosting its presence in key markets like the U.K.
In October, Ryanair cut its fiscal 2019 profit guidance by 12 percent, citing labor strife and fuel costs. After a run-up early in the year, fuel prices have been decreasing — though some airlines locked in higher prices via hedging and haven’t been able to take advantage of the drop.
Ryanair has suffered a spate of strikes, and the troubles with its unions aren’t over. Cabin crew in Spain have called for three days of strikes on Jan. 8, 10 and 13. The unions are meeting with the company on Thursday, although it is unlikely that they reach any agreement, Spanish union USO spokesman Pedro Alzina said on Wednesday.
The Irish airline cut 20,000 flights from last winter’s timetable following a pilot staffing crunch that also triggered the unionization push among crews, putting a brake on growth. Still, occupancy levels remain healthy with an average 96 percent load factor for 2018.
Ryanair shares were trading 0.8 percent higher at 10.61 euros as of 8:22 a.m. in Dublin; investors will be hoping for a better year after the stock dropped 29 percent in 2018, its worst performance since the global economic slump of a decade earlier.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.