More business passengers helped boost full-year profits by 21 per cent to £34.8m at Virgin Atlantic despite record fuel prices, the airline revealed yesterday.
The long-haul carrier, 51 per cent owned by Sir Richard Branson, said its business passenger numbers rose 22 per cent during the year, as Virgin took market share from British Airways which saw baggage delays and over 600 cancelled flights after its Heathrow Terminal Five opened in March.
The total number of passengers Virgin carried during the year from March 2007 to February 2008 increased by 7.6 per cent to 5.7m and the group’s sales rose 9.1 per cent to £2.4bn.
In this set of results, Virgin managed to defy the gloom that has beset much of the airline industry.
Carriers have been hurt by rising fuel prices and reduced spending on flights as the global economic downturn has hit consumers in the pocket.
Asian airline Cathay has reported losses, while others such as British Airways and Air France-KLM have seen profits fall sharply.
However, Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said he expects the aviation environment to be tougher this year.
He said: “Clearly things have got a lot tougher since these results have come through. Fuel prices have shot up in the last six months.”
Ridgway added that although the airline would continue to drive down costs it would not cut key additional services such as its award-winning luxury lounges and its limo pick-up.
The carrier, which flies long-haul routes to North America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia added it had begun the current financial year on a firm footing, with sales between April and June up 16 per cent to £645.3m.