RYANAIR has reported a loss of £230million (€273million) in the first three months of 2021 as the pandemic continues to affect holidays abroad.

The airline said that fares remain a third lower than pre-Covid – although said there is some hope for the summer as travel abroad picks up.

Ryanair said it expected to fly between 90 and 100 million passengers in its financial year to end-March 2022, up from an earlier forecast of 80-100 million.

A surge in bookings saw traffic increase from around one-third of 2019 levels in June to a forecast two-thirds in July, the airline indicated.

At least 10 million passengers are expected in August and September, around 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan said.

Rival easyJet last week said it hoped to ramp up capacity to 60 per cent of 2019 levels in the July-September quarter.

Mr Sorahan said: "We've been encouraged by closing bookings, over the past number of weeks, particularly since the European Digital COVID certificate has been rolled out. So on that basis we're now improving our traffic guidance."

Ryanair flew 27.5 million passengers in the year to March 2021, down from a pre-COVID-19 peak of 149 million.

The loss of €273 million for the three months to the end of June was slightly better than the €283 million loss forecast by a company poll of analysts.

But Ryanair said it remained impossible to provide a meaningful profit forecast for the financial year to end-March 2022, reiterating that the airline was cautiously expecting to post a small loss or break even before a strong recovery next year.

Ryanair's average fare was €24 in the April-June quarter down from €36 in the same quarter of 2019, but revenue for optional extras grew increasing to €22 from €19 as passengers paid to choose their seats and board more quickly.

The average number of empty seats is likely to fall from 27 per cent in the April-June quarter to a more normal level of under 10 per cent during the first half of next year, Mr Sorahan told Reuters in an interview.

Ryanair also remains in talks with Boeing about a significant order of the slightly larger MAX 10 jet for delivery from 2026, and the airline may do a deal later in the year but only if the price is right.

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