DUBLIN Ryanair's experiment with selling journeys involving connecting flights is going very well and may be extended to London's Stansted and Dublin airport within the next 12 months, Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said on Wednesday.
Ryanair become Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers by running a bare-bones operation, which included shunning trips involving a transfer to a connecting flight to avoid the risk of having to compensate passengers for missed connections.
But O'Leary dropped his opposition in 2015 as part of the airline's efforts to expand beyond its traditional customer base to fill a rapidly growing fleet of planes.
"The connecting flights trialled in Rome Fiumicino, which has been up and running for a month, is going very well," O'Leary told a news conference in Dublin. "We are seeing a big uptake on Italian domestic routes into Rome."
The trial means, for example, that a passenger in Italy wanting to fly to London from a city with no direct Ryanair route can now buy one ticket and change in Rome, rather than flying via Rome but paying for two separate Ryanair tickets.
Airports also typically charge lower fees for connecting passengers, which allows the airline to charge less for a flight from within Italy connecting to another Ryanair flight in Rome than selling the two legs separately.
For example, at Rome Fiumicino, airlines are charged 17.77 euros (£15.35) per passengers starting domestic or EU flights there but only pay 6.22 euros for transfer passengers.
"We think as we iron out the wrinkles in this over the next couple of months it would be logical that we would begin then to offer connections maybe at Dublin airport, certainly at Stansted airport in the next 12 months," O'Leary said.
The airline is working with a minimum transfer time of two and a half hours in the trial and there have been no issues with delays, Chief Operating Officer David O'Brien said.
Any passengers on flights delayed by more than three hours would already qualify for compensation under European rules.
Once its internal transfers are working smoothly, Ryanair plans to start offering feeder flights for long-haul routes with other airlines.
O'Leary said Ryanair was in talks with Norwegian Air Shuttle (NWC.OL), Aer Lingus (ICAG.L) and Portugal's TAP about feeding their long-haul flights and said the main factor delaying a launch was coordinating IT infrastructure.
O'Brien said Ryanair would offer access to its inventory of tickets to the partner airline and that Ryanair itself would not take any responsibility for missed connections.
He declined to comment on whether Ryanair might offer airlines a discount on the prices charged on Ryanair.com.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by David Clarke)