Ryanair Plans Low-Cost Transatlantic Airline

April 12, 2007

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Executives at Europe's biggest low-cost carrier Ryanair are working on launching a transatlantic airline with a fleet of 30 to 50 long-haul aircraft in the next three to four years.

"We've been approached by a number of airports in the US who are very keen to see us start a long-haul, low-fare service and we're working on plans to start flying the Atlantic," Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told reporters on Thursday during a flight from Dublin to Germany.

O'Leary, who repeated he plans to step down as head of the company in the next two to three years, said Ryanair would not invest the Irish-based company's own money in the new airline, which would be a sister or associate company rather than part of Ryanair.

"I will personally have some say in the way it's run," said O'Leary, adding that he doubted he would be its chief executive.

The new carrier would amass a fleet of up to 50 Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 mid-sized aircraft and serve destinations such as New York, Florida, Dallas and San Francisco from major Ryanair bases such as London Stansted, Dublin, Frankfurt Hahn in Germany and Barcelona in Spain.

Ryanair's own, short-haul fleet serving European destinations is made up entirely of Boeing 737s.

O'Leary, who checked reporters onto a flight touring European airports, saying "10 euro tickets to New York", said the new airline would also offer a premium service costing more than full-service carriers such as British Airways.

Prerequisites for the new airline would be a fall in the price of aircraft -- which O'Leary said he expected in the next year or two -- and implementation of last month's "open skies" deal between Europe and the United States.

The new carrier would initially be funded by private investors with a view to a stock-market flotation at a later date, he added.

"There are a lot of investors who are very keen to see a low-fare airline operate a transatlantic service, and money is the last thing we'll need," he added.

O'Leary has raised the prospect of launching a long-haul airline in the past but never in such detail. He had previously said it would be restricted to a luxury service, which is where he believes most money is to be made on transatlantic routes.

(Reuters)