For Ryanair, 2019 was the year it became Europe's biggest airline, dethroning long-time leader Lufthansa Group. But the skies are not as clear for Ryanair as the picture above makes it seem.
Ryanair's passenger count was up 9% for the year, with 152.4 million passengers and a 96% load factor, but the airline faces both regulatory and fleet issues in the year ahead, and is already predicting a small decrease in passengers for the coming year.
Part of that is because it has not yet received any of the dozens of Boeing 737 MAX planes that should have been delivered, and won't be receiving them or the rest of its large order anytime soon. That impacts not only planned routes and flights that assumed a larger fleet, but also existing routes as older, possibly less reliable, planes have to be kept in the air. Ryanair flies only 737s, and was counting heavily on the MAX for fleet renewal.
Among other issues, the airline now faces washback from a series of strikes against it over the past few years as it transitioned from being a militantly non-union airline. Under EU law, passengers must be compensated when flights are cancelled for any reason that is not "extraordinary." A Belgian court, in a ruling on Dec. 26, rejected Ryanair's claim that cancellations due to a strike meets that standard, and said "The strike is inherent to Ryanair's activity." A number of other cases moving through courts will now rely on that ruling.