Ryanair, Europe's largest airline by market value, believes revenue from inflight gaming and gambling could eventually do away with the need to charge air fares, chief executive Michael O'Leary said yesterday.
Ryanair gave away about a quarter of its seats last year and that could rise to between 50 and 100 per cent depending on ancillary revenues.
"Ultimately, entertainment will be where the money is," he insisted, while answering questions about plans to introduce gaming and gambling onboard.
"It would transform ancillary revenues and profits," he said. "We'll probably announce a gambling partner company in the next two to three months."
Besides plans for inflight gaming and gambling, the airline already generates ancillary income from services such as hotel bookings and car leasing.
Ryanair is set to announce earnings on November 7 for the half year to September 30.
"They'll be fine," Mr O'Leary said, declining to elaborate.
He has been talking about expanding inflight entertainment on Ryanair for more than a year, during which time the airline introduced and then withdrew an onboard video and entertainment system.
Ryanair had hoped a quarter of its annual 35 million passengers would use it, while only 7-8 per cent did.
Involving Hollywood films and kids cartoons, passengers showed a reluctance to pay for what had once been free. Mr O'Leary said the airline still had high hopes for gaming and gambling, and saw potential revenues of "a multiple of euros per passenger".
Ryanair also announced it would offer two million free seats, a move designed to pressure full-service airlines such as British Airways whose fuel surcharges have widened the gap on fares between budget and traditional airlines.