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Ryanair passenger traffic grew 8% in 2018, slowest since 2015

Labour issues, bad weather and strikes exact a toll; coming talks with unions unlikely to resolve matters

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RYANAIR Holdings Plc posted another year of slower passenger growth as the discounter's battle with unions, bad weather and industry wide air-traffic control strikes took their toll.

London

RYANAIR Holdings Plc posted another year of slower passenger growth as the discounter's battle with unions, bad weather and industry wide air-traffic control strikes took their toll.

Passenger numbers for the 12 months through December 2018 rose 8 per cent, to 139.2 million tickets sold. Even with the addition of Austria's Laudamotion, the rise was smaller than 2017's 10 per cent and the 17 per cent gain registered in 2016.

By comparison, smaller rival Wizz Air Holdings Plc on Thursday reported a 20 per cent passenger jump for 2018. The Budapest-based upstart has stepped up its challenge to larger rivals Ryanair and EasyJet Plc by increasing its presence in key markets like the UK.

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In October, Ryanair cut its fiscal 2019 profit guidance by 12 per cent, citing labour strife and fuel costs. After a run-up early in the year, fuel prices have been decreasing - though some airlines locked in higher prices through hedging and have not been able to take advantage of the drop.

Ryanair has suffered a spate of strikes, and the troubles with its unions are ongoing. Cabin crew in Spain have called for three days of strikes on Jan 8, 10 and 13.

The unions are meeting with the company on Thursday, although it is unlikely that they will reach an agreement, Spanish union USO spokesman Pedro Alzina said on Wednesday. BLOOMBERG