Irish airline Ryanair has reported an expectedly strong first quarter (Q1) for the 2024 financial year, with an 11% bounce-back in passenger numbers compared to the slump in 2023 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Although CEO Micheal O’Leary was bullish in his accompanying statement citing the airline’s predicted strongest summer yet, he was frank about upcoming challenges. 

Ryanair reported €3.65bn ($4bn) in revenue and €663m ($731m) in profit after tax for Q1, but said the growth figures were so positive due to “a Ukraine-affected prior year Q1” and significant events in 2023 including the extra UK bank holiday for the Coronation. 

In his statement, O’Leary took aim at the EU and called for European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen to “protect the single market for air travel and minimise the impact of ATC strikes on EU citizens.” O’Leary said it was an environmental concern, as flights had to be re-routed (at extra cost and causing extra emissions) during previous ATC strikes across Europe.

O’Leary said: “In May, we submitted a petition to the European Commission, signed by over 1 million of our customers, calling on the EU to protect “overflights” during national ATC strikes. We believe this would reduce flight delays, cut flight times and unnecessary CO₂ emissions.” 

He said the company has invested in its operational resilience “in anticipation of increased ATC disruptions”, including doubling the staff numbers at its Dublin and Warsaw operation centres. 

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Looking forward, he pointed to the recent order for 300 Boeing MAX-10 aircraft as a sign of the company’s serious commitment to sustainability. 

The strong quarterly result continues the current trend of airline growth.