Ryanair is planning to launch transatlantic flights, as part of an ambitious five-year growth strategy.
The Irish airline’s board has approved outline plans to fly between up to 14 European cities and the same number of US cities. Destinations will include New York, Boston, Chicago and Miami from London Stansted, Dublin and Berlin airports in Europe. The services could start in four or five years’ time if the company can secure a deal to buy long-haul aircraft.
Ryanair said it was already in talks with manufacturers about purchasing long-haul aircraft but declined to provide further details.
“European consumers want lower cost travel to the USA and the same for Americans coming to Europe. We see it as a logical development in the European market,” the company said in a statement.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, has long hoped to set up a low-cost transatlantic service. The company has, until now, held off as a string of predecessors have been unable to make such an idea pay. Zoom Airlines, a Canadian operation linking Gatwick and North America, had a brief existence in the last decade, while Sir Freddie Laker’s Skytrain famously went bust trying to pursue cheap flights to the US in the 1980s.
More recently, Oslo-based low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle began a transatlantic service in 2013 with a one-way ticket from London’s Gatwick airport to New York starting at £389 return. Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate described Norwegian’s long-haul launch as a “game-changing event”. But the costs of expanding into the US have plunged Norwegian into the red for the first time in eight years.
Ryanair’s head of marketing Kenny Jacobs told the Financial Times that the Irish carrier was a bigger brand and business than Norwegian and so would be able to build more traffic and a more efficient cost model.
“We’ve seen what others have done, we’ve listened and observed what’s gone on in the past 12 months and now have a better view on how we’d like to launch it and market it,” Jacobs told the newspaper.
Ryanair has recently seen an uplift in profit hopes after improved performance largely because of its discovery of the benefits of emphasising customer service. The airline has allowed more carry-on baggage, started allocating seating and cut punitive charges. It has also improved its website and launched a service for business customers.
The transatlantic route is one of the most profitable in the world, but is dominated by long-established airlines, led by British Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.