Budget carrier back in profit

BUDGET airline Ryanair returned to the black yesterday as it posted an annual profit of 341million euros (about �281m) despite the impact of the recession.

The Dublin-based carrier, which is the largest operator at Stansted Airport, its main UK hub, said the figure for the 12 months to March 31 benefitted from growth in traffic and lower fuels costs.

Passenger numbers grew by 14% to 67million while fuel costs fell 29% to 894m euros (about �755.5m) as a result of lower oil prices.

Last year’s profit compares with a loss of 180.5m euros (around �150.5m) for the previous 12 months.

Ryanair predicted double-digit growth in traffic and profit this year, barring any further significant disruption from Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud which it said had left it with a bill so far of around 50million euros (�42.3 million).

The company branded the repeated closures, which have cost it an estimated 1.5million passengers, as “unnecessary” and also attacked regulations on compensation for stranded travellers as “unfair and disproportionate”.

Although Ryanair has backed down following an initial threat to limit payouts to the cost of ticket prices, it warned yesterday that passengers “cannot and should not expect to receive unlimited compensation or reimbursements”.

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Ryanair’s traffic growth reflected the opening of 280 new routes and eight to bases last year, and was achieved despite the impact on the Irish tourism industry of the introduction of a 10 euro tourist tax and an increase in fees of up to 40% at Dublin airport.

Revenues from sales of non-ticket items such as food and drink rose 11% to 664m euro (�560.7m) last year to account for 22% of overall sales.

There will be a 500m euro (�422m) special dividend for shareholders after Ryanair’s decision last December to end talks with Boeing over new aircraft orders. It will mean a 20m euro (�16.7m) payout for Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, who owns 4% of the company’s shares.

The move contrasts with the row over dividends at budget rival easyJet, where founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou quit the board last month.