RYANAIR yesterday raised its annual profit forecast, after a decision to ground 80 planes over winter paid off.
The budget airline said its traffic fell two per cent to 16.7m in the last three months of 2011, but higher revenues per passenger lifted turnover 13 per cent to €844m (£706m).
Ryanair’s quarterly after-tax profit of €14.9m beat forecasts by analysts, many of whom had expected a loss.
Chief financial officer Howard Millar put the strong results down to “a benign winter” with low de-icing and cancellation costs, coupled with a 15 per cent rise in revenue per passenger to €51– a result of the capacity cut and a rise in customers paying to reserve seats.
Ryanair increased its full-year net profit forecast by nine per cent to €480m. The firm also plans to ask shareholders to approve a buyback of Nasdaq-listed ADRs, in addition to its plan to return up to €500m to shareholders by the end of next year.
But Ryanair warned that its fuel costs will be €350m higher in 2012, despite being 90 per cent hedged.
Millar said the firm is planning to open new bases, and yesterday sent directors to Barcelona to look into collapsed Spanair’s business.
He said talks are ongoing with Comac, the Chinese manufacturer, about ordering customised planes, after Ryanair failed to make a deal with Airbus. The planes, if ordered, could have wider doors – and fewer toilets – in order to fit 200 seats.