Low-cost airline easyJet posted a 31.5 per cent rise in full-year profit, helped by costs cuts and an increase in the number of corporate passengers, and said it would return £195M to shareholders.
The Luton, southern England-based carrier reported an underlying pretax profit of £248m on revenues 16 per cent higher at £3.45bn.
It said it would pay a one-off special dividend of 34.9 pence per share and an ordinary dividend of 10.5 pence per share, making a total payout of £195m.
The company said the macro-economic environment remained challenging for all airlines as weak consumer confidence across Europe slows the rate at which higher fuel prices and increased taxation can be passed onto passengers.
"Against this backdrop easyJet is taking a cautious approach to capacity deployment," easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said. "As a result, capacity in the first half of the year is planned to be flat, with growth of around 4 percent for the full year."
The company had been expected to report an annual pretax profit of between £206m and £254m.
EasyJet said around 45 per cent of its winter seats had already been sold, in line with the prior year, and that first half passenger revenues were expected to grow by mid-single digits.
The airline's fuel costs rose to £917m during the year, up from £733m a year earlier.
It said its underlying costs per seat fell by 1.3 per cent for the full year, helped by a strong cost performance in ground handling and maintenance.
Passenger numbers rose 11.8 per cent to 54.5m during the year, while its load factor improved by 0.3 percentage points to 87.3 per cent, said the airline.