We are seeing conflicting trends in the number of traffic from two of Europe’s biggest low-cost airlines, Ryanair and Wizz Air. While the Central Eastern European carrier reports recovery of passenger numbers for December, its Irish competitor saw a decline to the lowest level since July which it blames on the Omicron effect. Traffic numbers Ryanair and Wizz going down and up.

Ryanair carried 9.5 million passengers in December compared to 10.2 million in November and even 11.3 million in October. This was the highest level in the current FY22, which runs from April to April. During the first nine months, Ryanair and its subsidiaries Malta Air and Buzz carried 70.1 million passengers, of which 62 million between July and December. By comparison: in the first nine months of FY21, Ryanair carried 25.1 million passengers.

The load factor for December was 81 percent, which is back to the September level after two months of 84 and 86 percent in October and November. The number of flights in December was 62.000, only 300 down in November but much lower than the 71.500 in October.

Ryanair said on December 22 that it has lowered its guidance for December from ten to eleven million passengers to nine to 9.5 million, ending up at the higher end of its forecast. Its final quarter between January and the end of March will likely see a significant impact of Omicron as bookings are expected to end up much lower. Ryanair has cut its capacity for the quarter by 33 percent and hopes to carry at least some 25 to 30 million passengers to end FY22 slightly under 100 million passengers.

At Wizz Air, we are seeing a different trend in traffic numbers. The carrier reported 2.6 million passengers in December, up from 2.1 million in November. However, Wizz experienced a significant drop in November from 2.9 million passengers in October as well as September as it suffered from rising Covid infections in Eastern Europe. Mind you this was still the Delta variant. As with Ryanair, August was the best month for Wizz at 3.6 million passengers. At some half a million passengers, the drop between August and September was almost identical with both airlines.

Like that of Ryanair, Wizz Air’s financial year FY21/22 spans from April to April. During the first nine months, it carried 20.2 million passengers compared to 8.6 million in the same period of FY20/21. For the rolling twelve months, Wizz said it carried 21.7 million passengers, up from 16.8 million for January-December 2020. If we translate Ryanair’s numbers into a rolling year, it ended 2021 with 72.4 million passengers carried compared to 51,9 million in 2020.

Wizz’s load factor for December was 75.4 percent and 75.2 percent for the twelve months period. Whereas Ryanair doesn’t provide monthly figures of its capacity, Wizz reports that capacity in December was 3.5 million seats or 194.6 percent higher than December 2020. Capacity for the rolling year was 28.9 million seats, +29.6 million.

So far, no other major airlines have reported traffic numbers for December. easyjet hasn’t published any data since September when it closed its FY21. Back then, the UK low-cost airline carried 4.5 million passengers and 5.1 million in August. Lufthansa Group, Air France-KLM, and International Airlines Group (IAG) have stopped publishing monthly traffic data some time ago and only announce quarterly results.

On January 5, Finnair reported 602.700 passengers for December, up from 487.000 in November and 433.000 in October, so the Nordic airline is seeing an upward trend. However, for the full year 2021, Finnair carried 2.9 million, which is 18.2 percent down on the previous year.

So while Ryanair’s traffic numbers have gone down and those of Wizz Air up, it is likely that the Omicron effect will push traffic further down in the coming quarter. This seems to confirm that 2022 will continue to be another rollercoaster year for Europe’s air travel.

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