DUBLIN, IRELAND — Ryanair Boss Michael O'Leary predicts airlines will raise fares next year to cover the rising cost of fuel, and people will fly less as a result of the rising cost of living and economic downturn.

Last week, the Irish CEO told RTÉ News Channel that Ryanair was taking advantage of a solid fuel hedging position, having bought most of its fuel needs forward to April 2023 at around $64 a barrel, well below where prices currently stand.

O'Leary also said that they would be able to pass on those savings to Ryanair customers in the form of lower fares.

"That's why we are growing strongly. We've had a robust summer. If there are no disruptions with Covid or with Ukraine this winter, we think we are on track to carry around 166m passengers this year," 

he added.

O'Leary anticipates competitors that have not hedged fuel to the same extent would confront higher costs and probably will be forced to increase their fares.

But Ryanair hedged only around 50% of its for $92 per barrel for summer 2023, so it will also encounter slightly higher bills next year.

The Irish low-cost specialist is currently struggling to get delivery of its new Boeing aircraft. It did take delivery of 73 737 MAX jets in advance of summer 2022 and is scheduled to take delivery of 51 new aircraft before next summer.

Ryanair was supposed to get 21 aircraft by Christmas, but it looks like Boeing might deliver only 13 or 14 jets. The carrier is concerned that this situation will interrupt its growth into the summer of 2023.

Ryanair is already the largest airline in Europe in passenger numbers and fifth in the world, but the low-cost airline expects to be the largest in the world in five to six years said CEO Michael O'Leary in an interview with the Belgian newspaper De Tijd. To achieve that, the carrier must overtake the American giants American, Delta, Southwest and United.

Despite the great ambitions, Ryanair announced this month that it would close the base at Brussels Airport and significantly scale down the operation there this winter. O'Leary denied the decision was a result of the imposition of a new environmental tax but instead was a result of price increases by the airport at a time when traffic had fallen.