Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary warns of summer travel chaos and higher ticket prices

Queues in the summer of last year at Heathrow Airport. Credit: PA

Holidaymakers have been warned to brace themselves for another summer of travel chaos and rising ticket prices at UK airports.

Industrial disputes and the war in Ukraine are being blamed for the expected disruption.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary says planned strikes by air traffic controllers in France over pensions reforms risk "shutting everybody down" if the drags on into summer.

Eurocontrol, which manages air traffic across Europe has anticipated "major" delays this summer, in a repeat of the disruption experienced last year.

It anticipates getting closer to pre-pandemic traffic levels "will not be easy" and "ramping back up close to 90% of 2019 traffic over the summer caused immense difficulties."

And, due to many air routes from the UK going through France, British holiday makers are likely to get caught up in the industrial action even if they're not going to the country directly.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary predicts prices will remain higher than usual for the foreseeable future. Credit: PA

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mr O'Leary said: “The French usually wait until about March-April to start going on strike," he said.

"This year they are starting on Thursday because they are not happy with (President) Macron’s pension reforms.

"The first people to man the barricades are the French air traffic controllers.

“The real pressure will be on Germany because of the situation in Ukraine.

“Most of southern Poland has been closed off for NATO exercises, so everything going north-south from the Baltic states down to Greece and Italy now has to fly around Germany.

“All the long-haul stuff going to Asia now has to fly down around Germany and across Romania, out over Iran, because they can’t fly over Russia.

“So there is real pressure on Germany, northern Italy, those kinds of corridors there and that’s going to be a challenge.”

The veteran airline boss also does not believe fares as low as £9.99 will return “for the next year or two” due to high oil prices.

He attributed the strong booking performance despite the cost-of-living crisis to people deciding to “scrimp and save” elsewhere to “protect their holiday”.

“One of the things that has emerged out of Covid is the annual holiday, or the second holiday, or the week in the sun, is no longer being considered by many to be a luxury that we can drop,” he said.

Mr O’Leary added the pandemic has “accelerated the consolidation process” in the airline sector.

Ryanair has announced record bookings driven by UK consumers planning foreign trips for Easter and summer. Credit: PA

He believes eventually easyJet “is going to finish up being bought by either British Airways or Air France, or both jointly”.

Earlier this month Ryanair increased its profit forecast.

A strong Christmas season meant the airline now expects profit after tax to reach between a little over 1.3 billion euros (£1.1 billion) and 1.4 billion euros (£1.2 billion) during the financial year.

That is an increase from the one billion Euros (£880 million) to 1.2 billion Euros (£1.06 billion) range that the company had previously supplied to shareholders.

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