However, the budget carrier said in a statement that it expects to benefit from a “strong rebound of pent up travel demand” through the second half of this year.
Bosses at the Dublin-headquartered airline are looking to return to pre-coronavirus growth in the summer of 2022 with the help of the delivery of Boeing 737 “Gamechanger” aircraft and new bases in Billund, Riga, Stockholm, Zadar and Zagreb.
It described the financial year as “the most challenging” in the firm’s 35-year history due to the pandemic.
“There was a partial recovery during summer 2020, as initial lockdowns eased, however a second Covid-19 wave in Europe followed quickly in the autumn with a third wave in spring,” Ryanair told investors.
“This created enormous disruptions and uncertainty for both our customers and our people, as they suffered constantly changing Government guidelines, travel bans and restrictions.
“Ryanair responded promptly, and effectively, to this crisis, by working hard to assist millions of customers with flight changes, refunds and changed travel plans.
“We minimised job losses through agreed pay cuts and participation in Government job support schemes, while at the same time keeping our pilots, cabin crew and aircraft current and ready to resume service once normality returns.”
Jack Winchester, an analyst at research firm Third Bridge, said: “Ryanair, like its ultra-low-cost peer Wizz Air, weathered the crisis far better than its legacy counterparts. It also stands ready to hoover up the pent-up demand for foreign holidays we’re about to see as rules on international travel finally ease.
“While Lufthansa, IAG and Air France KLM all struggled under the weight of huge hub-and-spoke airline operations, Ryanair’s point-to-point model meant it was able to adapt faster and more fully to a historic year of low demand.
“Where Ryanair has lost out though is in access to state funding, something legacy flag carriers have gained a material advantage from and [chief executive] Michael O’Leary is challenging in the courts.”
He added: “Ryanair, never one to waste a crisis, is now going on the offensive, seeking to gain further market share and utilise the 210 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft it has recently ordered.”
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at financial services group Hargreaves Lansdown, noted: “The airline says it’s almost impossible to give guidance for the rest of the year, given the uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of flight paths in its key markets.
“Ryanair now expects passenger numbers for the year to be towards the lower end of a 80 million to 120 million passenger range. The April to June quarter is expected to stay subdued with forecasts of just five million to six million passengers.
“There are glimmers of hope emerging such as the strong increases in weekly bookings since early April. The accelerating roll-out of vaccine programmes across Europe is giving the airline more confidence that there should be a rebound in business in the second half of the year.”