• Quote: ‘We may as well all hole up in a cave forever and think this thing (COVID-19) is going to pass. We’re going to have to live with it’.

By Andrew Atkinson

Ryanair – one of the few airlines that is giving a lifeline to ex-pats flying to and from the UK and Spain, via Alicante-Elche airport – say they could be ‘the last person standing’ after the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has seen passengers severely severed.

“I think when this ends we will come back stronger,” said Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, speaking on a new podcast, Inside Ryanair.

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

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

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,” said Wilson.

“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.

Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC.
Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC.

“Norwegian is gone, easyJet are getting smaller,” said Wilson, on the back of easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren talking about the coronavirus outbreak.

“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,” said Lundgren.

Jet2 meanwhile has cancelled a number of flights and holidays to Spain and Portugal until early 2021 in the face of ongoing coronavirus travel restrictions.

They say that flights and holidays to Malaga and Alicante-Elche airport will be suspended until February 10, 2021.

Ryanair DAC chief executive Wilson also hit out at 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.

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

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

“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,” said Wilson.

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