By Kristy Dorsey

Low-cost carrier Ryanair said it expects to deliver more rapid traffic growth during the next five years than previously forecast with plans to open 10 new bases across Europe this year.

The group has raised its growth forecast from 33 per cent to 50%, meaning it expects to carry more than 225 million passengers by March 2026. That would be 25 million more than its previous target 200 million, and compares to pre-Covid traffic levels of 149 million.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said the performance of the group’s B737 “Gamechanger” aircraft has exceeded previous guidelines for lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and higher operational reliability.

Ryanair had been in talks to order 100 of Boeing’s 230-seater Max 10 craft for delivery between 2026 and 2030. However, those discussions came to abrupt end last week in a dispute over pricing.

READ MORE: Michael O'Leary warns of ‘dramatically higher’ air fares next summer

In a statement accompanying its annual general meeting held yesterday, Ryanair said it could meet its growth ambitions with the B737 aircraft – also from Boeing – that it has already ordered.

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

“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.”

Ryanair shares closed yesterday's trading more than 8% higher at 16.6p.