RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary has predicted that his airline will eventually become Europe's only major low-cost carrier and said flight prices are only going to rise next year.
O'Leary believes a widening gap on airfares makes rivals easyJet and Wizz takeover targets for bigger companies, meaning there could be fewer budget airlines to choose from.
"Europe is inexorably moving towards having three very large, somewhat higher cost, high-fare connecting carriers, and one very large low cost carrier" in Ryanair, O'Leary said.
O’Leary also told the Guardian airfares were likely to continue to rise into next year, unless Covid or an escalation of war prevented people from travelling again.
He said that while Ryanair was growing, “the competition are all cutting capacity because they are exposed to higher oil prices.
"If capacity keeps falling we’ll see fares rise again by somewhere between 5 per cent and 10 per cent.”
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It is a warning he has already made this year. In September he said it was unlikely that cheap fares would return next year.
He said then: "It’s inevitable that fares will go up.
"High oil prices mean they have to go up. There will be pressure on air fares into summer 2023."
Meanwhile, O'Leary's competitors have said they aren't expecting to be taken over, which could keep prices lower for the time being.
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Wizz chief executive Jozsef Varadi, who has always maintained he can compete with Ryanair on prices, last week said he did not see his airline as a takeover target.
EasyJet have also refuted the suggestion they will be taken over, saying it is not a "realistic prospect".
A spokesperson told simpleflying.com: "Millions of consumers in Europe will be relieved to hear there is no realistic prospect of Ryanair becoming the only low-cost airline in Europe."
O'Leary said both of the rival airlines "would be candidates for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) over the next couple of years" and that their costs would continue to go up.
He continued: "They are stuck in a space where they are mid-airfare, mid-cost and they are not able to compete with us on cost or pricing."
O'Leary praised easyJet for establishing a "fortress-like" position in some expensive airports like London Gatwick and Paris Charles de Gaulle, Geneva and Zurich.
But he said the British airline was being forced by Ryanair to offer fewer services in places like Italy and Portugal.
Wizz, O'Leary said, is also offering less in the face of Ryanair's expansion in some parts of central and eastern Europe.
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Meanwhile, this travel expert has revealed how to save money on soaring flight costs.
And this money expert has revealed which days are the best to book flights on to save cash.
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