Europe’s biggest budget airline has seen its half-year profits, which topped £1bn in 2019, turn to a loss of £180m.
Ryanair has blamed “uncoordinated EU government flight restrictions” aimed at tackling coronavirus for the reversal.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, the chief executive, Michael O’Leary, was also scathing of the UK’s second lockdown.
“It’s just a cover-up for political mismanagement, which the Johnson government continues to deliver,” he said.
The half-year results cover the months from April to September. During the first three months, Ryanair ran only a skeleton service of flights.
The return to service that began on 1 July initially looked promising. But once government restrictions returned – such as the re-imposition of UK quarantine on travellers from Spain and France – bookings collapsed.
Ryanair saw a 2019 half-year profit of €1.15bn (£1.05bn) plummet to a €197m (£180m) loss – an average of £1m per day. Passenger numbers fell by 80 per cent to 17 million.
Its financial statement read: “Passenger confidence and forward bookings into winter 2020 were negatively impacted by the return of uncoordinated EU government flight restrictions in September and October, which heavily curtailed travel to/from much of Central Europe, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and Portugal.”
Many fares have been cut to way below-cost, with links from Gatwick to Dublin, Stansted to Baden-Baden and Birmingham to Corfu priced at below the £13 payable in Air Passenger Duty.
Ryanair expects to carry only 21 million more passengers by the end of its financial year in March 2021, and warns investors to expect higher losses in the second half.
It has cut its winter capacity from a planned 60 per cent of originally planned flights to 40 per cent or less.
“Hedging” fuel and currency, financial planning intended to smooth shocks, cost the airline €214m (£195m).
One financial benefit was that more passengers chose priority boarding and reserved seating, apparently in response to concerns about Covid-19.
The airline has been heavily criticised for delays in refunding passengers whose flights were cancelled, particularly early on in the coronavirus crisis.
The statement says: “This process was frustrated by unlicensed OTAs [online travel agents], many of who provided false customer contact and fake payment details at the time of booking.
“Despite the enormity of the task, almost all non-OTA refund requests have now been dealt with either via cash refunds or vouchers.”
“This illegal state aid will distort competition and allow failed flag carriers to engage in below-cost selling for many years,” the airline says.
It warns that it expects Brexit “to cause adverse trading consequences”.