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Ryanair’s Ambitious Expansion Plan

The airline has ferried perhaps more passengers to cheap holidays in Europe than any other in recent years – its advertising slogan claims it to be “the world’s favourite airline”, after all – and this success looks like translating into hundreds more aircraft to fuel a massive expansion strategy, if a report in today’s Financial Times is to be believed.

The FT said that Ryanair bosses are in negotiations with several aircraft manufacturers – Boeing in the USA, Comac in China and Irkut in Russia – with the aim of buying between 200 and 300 narrow-body planes between 2015 and 2021.

Always with an eye on cutting costs, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary told the paper that he was only prepared to purchase aircraft if they were sold at “cheap prices”, and believes that this will be possible as manufacturers are anxious to counter the number of orders they have had cancelled as a result of the global economic downturn.

If the sales went ahead, Ryanair’s fleet would vastly increase in number from 300 to 500 and would mean that the carrier could increase the annual number of passengers it carries from 70 million up to 130 million by 2011.

“Staying as is for the next 10 to 20 years sounds a bit too much like just lethargy – we’re not going to stop here,” O’Leary declared.

With the perennial popularity of cheap holidays in Spain and the resurgence of Italy holidays, new routes introduced by the airline in recent years have focused on destinations in these two countries. Mr O’Leary told the FT that Ryanair now wanted to take advantage of the excellent opportunities for growth in eastern Europe and Scandinavia, as cheap holidays in these regions become more popular.

After 17 years as the love-him-or-hate-him boss of Ryanair, O’Leary said that he was still as enthusiastic as ever, but planned to retire in two to three years – although he also conceded that this has been his official line for quite a while now!