PARIS (Reuters) - Ryanair RYA.I is more confident about a partial recovery in passenger traffic next summer following reported progress on a COVID-19 vaccine, the budget airline's Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said on Tuesday.
Describing the progress as the “first bit of sunshine we’ve had for the past 12 months”, O’Leary forecast a return to 75-80% of pre-crisis traffic by next summer - an improvement on the 50-80% range he had given eight days earlier.
"There's reasonable optimism now that summer 2021 will get back to some degree of normality," O'Leary told the WTM Virtual travel conference, a day after Pfizer PFE.N said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in trials.
Stocks surged on Monday’s breakthrough news, even as experts cautioned that global deployment of an approved vaccine would take many months and face major logistical and other hurdles.
The Ryanair boss, who has predicted a post-crisis price war in which the budget carrier is well placed to gain ground, said Europe would see “an enormous snap-back” in intra-European beach holiday travel as soon as confidence returns.
“Mrs O’Leary is very keen to get back to the Algarve, and I suspect she’ll be there about 2.5 nanoseconds after the restrictions are lifted,” he said. “Frankly I think she’s reflective of the overwhelming majority of Europe’s population.”
Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jan Harvey
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