Ryanair beats BA to become most popular airline

It used to be known as the world’s favourite airline. Now British Airways may struggle to lay claim to the title of the most popular in the UK.

Analysis by the Anna.Aero website has found that the British flag carrier is about to be overtaken by Ryanair as the busiest international airline flying out of UK airports.

The Irish budget airline had capacity for more than 22 million passengers on international flights this year after reporting a 13 per cent increase in the past 12 months. BA has more than 25 million seats but grew by less than 4 per cent this year, it emerged.

Based on present growth rates, it is predicted that Ryanair will overtake BA as the UK’s top international airline in 2018.

The figures, from the aviation data company OAG, underline the scale of the competition facing BA from budget airlines. John Gaunt, industry adviser for OAG, said: “Ryanair and easyJet have considerable opportunities to expand from regional UK airports whilst BA strategy is largely based around London Heathrow and Gatwick, both of which have limited room for growth.”

The OAG figures analysed seating capacity rather than passenger numbers, although separate figures suggest that BA lags behind in terms of sales.

Data from International Airlines Group, BA’s parent company, shows that an average of 82 per cent of seats were filled in the year to November, while Ryanair’s figures were well above 90 per cent.