Once again, the story is doing the rounds that Europe’s largest no-frills airline will start flying the Atlantic for fares as low as £10. Will the plane ever get off the ground? Simon Calder, travel correspondent of The Independent, tackles the key questions.
Q A tenner to New York? When can I book?
Steady on. For many years Ryanair has held out the prospect of offering transatlantic flights, with one big proviso: the airline will do so only when it can order a substantial fleet of wide-bodied aircraft at the right price. At present order books for new jets such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 are bulging, largely because the three big Gulf-based airlines - Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways - are ordering so many new planes.
Ryanair is interested in joining the game only when it can secure a deal as impressive as it did in 2001. After 9/11 it was the only customer in town for Boeing, and ordered a couple of hundred 737s at about half price. This deal has underpinned its low cost base and high profits ever since. So we will probably need to wait until there is another shock to the global system, or perhaps a deep recession, before the order goes in and services begin.
Q And when that happens …
When they do, it is likely to be a different brand to Ryanair, though flying from familiar airports: Stansted, Berlin Schonefeld, Rome Ciampino, etc. The US targets will be big cities with sufficient leisure and business traffic to sustain a year-round operation. New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago and Miami are obvious. Any further west, and a “there and back in 24 hours” operation becomes tricky.
Unlike the European operation it will offer a business class - for which the chief executive, Michael O’Leary, characterised as offering beds and sexual favours. He was joking about the latter.
Best low-cost airline in Europe awards
Best low-cost airline in Europe awards
1/10 1. Norway Airlines
Norwegian flies to over 126 destinations, and recently introduced long-haul flights to New York and LA
2/10 2. EasyJet Airlines
British airline easyJet operates domestic and international scheduled services on over 600 routes in 32 countries.
3/10 3. Germanwings Airlines
Cologne-based Germanwings flies to destinations and airports across Europe
4/10 4. NIKI Airlines
Unlike many airlines described as low-cost, NIKI does provide free refreshments, newspapers and baggage on some services
5/10 5. AirBaltic Airlines
Latvian low-cost carrier AirBaltic flies to over 50 destinations including Rome, St. Petersburg, and Prague
6/10 6. Wizz Air Airlines
Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air serves 35 countries
7/10 7. WOW Air Airlines
Iceland's low-cost airline operates flights to 16 destinations including London, Milan and Barcelona
8/10 8. Pegasus Airlines
Turkish based Pegasus Airlines flies to 97 destinations
9/10 9. Onur Air
Turkish based Onur Air operates flights to 80 destinations in 20 countries
10/10 10. FlyBe Airlines
Devon-based Flybe operates over 180 routes to 65 European airports
Q How cheap will the cheap seats be?
Ryanair is delighted with the way that the media has swallowed the idea of £10 flights. It is conceivable that such loss leaders may be offered in tiny quantities to launch the airline or offload seats in the lowest of seasons, but in practice the minimum fare is likely to be £100 each way - covering the taxes and fees Ryanair must pay for each passenger. The average is likely to be around £200 each way. As with European routes, fare will vary sharply by season, according to demand. So a peak summer London - New York trip could cost £400 each way, if the other airlines are around the £500 or £600 mark. Expect extra charges for checked baggage and meals.
Q Why don’t they use their existing planes?
Good question. The Boeing 737 has the range to fly from some far western European points - Glasgow, Dublin and beyond - to far eastern Canada. Indeed WestJet of Canada launches such flights from Dublin to St John’s in Newfoundland last year, and it proved so successful that it is flying from Glasgow to Halifax, Nova Scotia from this summer. But I have asked Ryanair repeatedly if they have any plans to emulate the idea, and have been told emphatically that they would not.
Q So if not Ryanair, then who will fly me cheaply to the US this summer?
Short answer: no-one. Airlines are enjoying their best year for a decade. But there are some lower cost options: Norwegian non-stop from Gatwick to Florida, New York and Los Angeles, Aer Lingus via Dublin and Shannon to a range of US cities, and Icelandair via Reykjavik to many west coast destinations, including Anchorage in Alaska, Vancouver and - from this summer - Portland.Reuse content