Routes Europe Flashback: Ryanair From the Beginning

This edition of flashback from includes Ryanair’s first 15 years of operations from 1985, which includes the airline transitioning from a regional carrier between Ireland and the UK, to becoming the first European carrier to adopt the low-cost model.

Based on data from OAG, Ryanair launched operations initially with Embraer EMB110 Bandeirante turboprop aircraft, on a London Gatwick – Waterford route. The airline operated nine weekly flights on this route in September 1985, followed closely by a Dublin – London Gatwick route. The following list features operational routes from 1985 to 1990:

Route Aircraft Effective period (until March 1990)
Waterford - London Gatwick EMB 1985/09 – 1986/05
Dublin - London Luton HS7/ATR

1986/06 -

Waterford - London Luton HS7 1986/06 -
Knock - London Luton B11 1987/03 -
Knock - Manchester B11 1987/06 – 1987/09
Knock - Birmingham B11 1987/06 – 1989/04
Cork - London Luton B11 1987/07 –
Dublin - Manchester ATR 1987/07 – 1988/10
Shannon - London Luton B11 1987/07 –
Dublin - Knock EMB 1988/02 – 1989/04
Dublin - Cardiff EMB/B11/ATR 1988/03 –
Galway - London Luton HS7/CVR/ATR 1988/03 –
Dublin - Liverpool B11/ATR 1988/06 -
Dublin - Glasgow B11 1988/06 – 1988/10
Dublin - Munich B11 1988/07 -
Knock - London Gatwick B11 1988/07 - 1989/04
Kerry - London Luton ATR 1989/05 -
Knock - Coventry B11/ATR 1989/05
Knock - Leeds/Bradford B11 1989/05 – 1989/09
Knock - London Stansted B11 1989/05 – 1990/02
Dublin - Paris CDG B11 1989/06 – 198910
Dublin – London Stansted B11 1989/07 –
Dublin - Coventry ATR 1989/11 – 1990/04

In the first half of the 1990s, Ryanair continued service expansion, focusing on Ireland – UK routes. Although Ryanair passenger numbers continued to increase, the airline generally ran at a loss, and by 1991, was in need of restructuring, due to the vast amount of aircraft types being operated.

The airline gradually moved its London Luton operation to London Stansted in 1990 to 1991 and in 1994, the airline launched its first Boeing 737 service from its Dublin base at the time. Ryanair gradually began to expand its routes between Ireland and the UK, many of which are still in operation today.

Flights from Dublin particularly saw a steady rise, with a small number of European destinations beginning to appear. Paris Beauvais and Brussels Charleroi were added to the airline’s flight map, both departing from Dublin. An increased number of UK destinations became present, with additions including Bristol, Teesside, Glasgow Prestwick and Bournemouth, all between 1994 and 1997.

Ryanair first introduced the low-fare model on London Stansted – Glasgow Prestwick route in 1995, and gradually transitioned to its low-cost business model by May 1997, when it launched a number of new routes from Dublin with the “base” concept, followed by London Stansted and Glasgow Prestwick.

In 1992, the European Union’s deregulation of the air industry in Europe gave carriers from one EU country the right to operate scheduled services between other EU states which gave a huge opportunity to Ryanair. In 1998, after launching a number of new services including Stockholm, Sandefjord, Torp, Beauvais-Tille and Charleroi, the airline placed a huge order for 45 new Boeing 737-800 series aircraft.

On 20th March 1999, Ryanair accepts delivery of its first new Boeing 737-800 series aircraft with five in total being delivered throughout the year. The aircraft begins operations from the airline's main base at London Stansted, and its impact allowed Ryanair to operate with significantly lower seat costs and to offer much lower airfares. New European routes are launched to Frankfurt, Biarritz, Ostend, Ancona, Genoa, Turin, Derry and Aarhus in Denmark.

By March 2000, Ryanair operated a total of 33 routes from 3 bases including Dublin and London Stansted. Of the 33 routes the airline operated, only six are now defunct, including Dublin - Bournemouth and Teeside, Glasgow Prestwick - Paris Beauvais and London Stansted - Kristianstad, Rimini and St. Etienne. Rapid growth in the next 15 years saw the airline operating over 1600 routes from over 70 bases.

For the full schedule of Ryanair flights between 1985 and 2000, visit our sister blog,

Jim Liu

Jim is responsible for the content on our sister blog, Airlineroute, which offers an indispensable guide to flight schedule updates. Launched in 2007…