Ryanair has announced plans for accelerated post-Covid growth, which it expects to result in 225 million annual passengers by March 2026.

The figure is 25 million more than its previous forecast of 200 passengers per year by the same date, with the group pointing to new opportunities at primary and secondary airports “all over Europe, particularly where legacy carriers have failed or reduced fleet sizes as a result of Covid and State Aid”.

Ryanair said that based on proxy votes already received, shareholders had approved all resolutions at last week’s AGM, including a five-year post-Covid growth forecast of 50 per cent, up from the previous 33 per cent.

With the caveat that the plan are “Subject to no adverse Covid developments, and vaccinations remaining at 90 per cent + across Europe”, the group expects to take delivery of 210 B737 Max 200 aircraft over the next five years.

The first of these arrived in June of this year, around two years later than originally planned.

Ryanair takes delivery of first B737 Max 200

CEO Michael O’Leary said that the performance of the 197-seater ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft this summer had surpassed expectations, stating that “Operational reliability, fuel consumption, and lower CO2 emissions have so far exceeded guidelines with very positive passenger and crew feedback to these new, more fuel efficient, quieter aircraft”.

O’Leary also said that the group planned to open ten new bases across Europe this year, “as we work with airport partners to help them recover traffic and jobs post Covid”.

This month Ryanair opened a €50 million Aviation Training Centre in Dublin, with two more centres planned for Spain and Poland in the next five years.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered an unprecedented blow to Europe’s aviation and tourism industries,” said O’Leary.

“Only Ryanair has used this crisis to place significantly increased aircraft orders, to expand our airport partnerships, and to secure lower operating costs so that we can pass on even lower fares to our guests, so that together with our airport partners, we can recover strongly from the Covid pandemic and deliver higher than expected growth in both traffic and jobs over the next five years.”

Earlier this month Ryanair said it had ended negotiations with Boeing over a “a large follow on order” for the manufacturer’s B737 Max 10 aircraft, stating that “it became clear that the pricing gap between the partners could not be closed and accordingly, both sides have agreed to waste no more time on these negotiations”.

Ryanair ends negotiations for B737 Max 10 aircraft