Ryanair has lowered the top end of its estimates for profits this year after a number of online travel agents abruptly removed flights from the Irish airline from their websites.
The removal is part of a long-running spat between Ryanair and online travel agents including Kiwi, Lastminute and Opodo, which the airline describes as “pirates” because of alleged “scamming” by charging customers higher fees.
Despite the feud, Ryanair appeared to be taken by surprise by the removal of flights from travel agents’ websites in December. That caused the load factor, or the proportion of seats occupied on each plane, to drop by a percentage point. Ryanair responded by dropping prices to try to fill seats.
The airline said on Monday it would narrow its guidance for profit after tax for the full year to a range of between €1.85bn (£1.58bn) and €1.95bn, after previously saying profit could reach as high as €2.05bn.
Profits were also affected by a 35% increase in the airline’s fuel bill.
However, despite the hit to profits, Ryanair’s overall passenger numbers rose 7% to 41.4 million in the last three months of 2023 compared with the equivalent period the year before. Ryanair’s near-constant increases in passenger numbers have made it one of the world’s most valuable airlines, but also the most polluting carrier in Europe in terms of carbon emissions.
Ryanair warned that its profit guidance “remains heavily dependent upon avoiding unforeseen adverse events” in the final quarter of its financial year, such as new instability from Russia’s war on Ukraine or the Israel-Hamas conflict.
It also highlighted the risk of further delays in deliveries of new aircraft from Boeing. Ryanair signed a deal for new Boeing 737 Max aircraft in December 2020, receiving a significant discount for backing the US manufacturer at a time of significant scrutiny after two deadly crashes caused by design flaws.
Ryanair has since taken delivery of dozens of new jets, but further deliveries could be delayed after regulators blocked accelerated production because of a non-fatal accident earlier this month. The Alaska Airlines flight lost a door plug in mid-air, apparently because of failures in securing the part on the new plane.
Kiwi, Lastminute and Opodo were approached for comment.
Ryanair shares were down 2.7% on Monday.