Ryanair "on track" despite £8.5m loss

Europe's biggest low-cost airline Ryanair re-affirmed its full-year profit target after rising passenger numbers and average fares helped offset disruption from strike action and bad weather.

The Irish airline said it was on track to make a full-year net profit towards the upper end of its 380m euro (£325m) to 400m euro target range.

Ryanair said it made a net loss of 10m euros (£8.5m) in the third quarter to the end of December compared with an 11m euro loss a year earlier and a forecast for a net loss of 13.4m euros by in-house broker Davy.

"This small Q3 loss is disappointing, as we were on track to break even, but earnings were hit by a series of ATC strikes/walkouts, compounded by a spate of bad weather airport closures in December," said chief executive Michael O'Leary.

Ryanair cancelled over 3,000 flights in the third quarter compared with over 1,400 cancellations in the previous year.

However, O'Leary said he expected passenger numbers and average fares to continue to benefit in the fourth quarter from a better mix of new routes. The airline has offset weakness in the domestic economy by growing in lower cost markets such as Spain and Italy.

Airlines typically lose money in the third quarter, which is the quietest period of the year for the industry.

Ryanair said its total revenue grew by 22 per cent to 746m euros during the quarter, benefiting from a 6 percent increase in passenger numbers to 17m and a 15 per cent rise in average fares.