Ryanair Has a Plan to Offer Free Flights Across Europe
European budget airline Ryanair hopes to eventually offer free seats on flights, and instead make a profit by sharing revenue with the airports.
“I have this vision that in the next five to 10 years that the airfares on Ryanair will be free, in which case the flights will be full, and we will be making our money out of sharing the airport revenues; of all the people who will be running through airports, and getting a share of the shopping and the retail revenues at airports,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in a speech on Tuesday.
By the end of the year, Ryanair expects to have flown more than 119 million passengers, and has set a goal to grow that number to more than 200 million by 2024. The additional passengers flying with Ryanair translate to a greater number of passengers passing through Europe’s smaller airports, where the airline predominantly operates.
Smaller airports throughout Europe have reported a “Ryanair” effect once the airline chooses to operate there: ‘Ghost airports’ that were near-desolate before are now seeing thousands of Ryanair passengers.
Airports throughout Europe charge airlines a per-passenger fee for use of their facilities. In the UK, for example, this fee is about $16. But, in order to lure airlines to their grounds and increase traffic, some airports are eliminating this fee.
Often, travelers can nab a Ryanair flight for less than $16. The CEO pointed to a current flash sale where tickets are around $5. In this instance—were the fee completely eliminated—Ryanair could offer free airfare.
Average airfare aboard Ryanair was about $48 this year, including one checked bag—which is an extra fee. The airline expects prices to drop an additional 10 to 15 percent in the upcoming year.
Nearly one-quarter of the Ryanair’s revenue is made from add-ons, like choosing a seat or reprinting a ticket, or in-flight sales of merchandise and food.