Ryanair lifted by ‘very rare’ string of events

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary

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Budget airline Ryanair said its first half profits soared 37 per cent after a “very rare” series of favourable events.

The Irish carrier saw passenger numbers increase 13 per cent to 58 million in the six months to the end of September, carrying more than 10 million travellers in July alone.

It also revised its full-year target up one million to 105 million, notably up on last year’s 90.5 million total.

But the airline said its raised guidance depends on the strength of its bookings in the fourth quarter, which it admits it has “almost zero visibility on”.

Its load factor – a measure of how full each flight is – lifted by 4 percentage points to 93 per cent over the period as profits after tax grew to €1.1 billion (£774m), up from €795m a year earlier.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary put the strong first-half performance down to a combination of miserable weather, fuel savings and a strong pound.

“We are pleased to report this strong set of results,” he said.

“We have enjoyed a bumper summer due to a very rare confluence of favourable events including stronger sterling, adverse weather in northern Europe, reasonably flat industry capacity and further savings on our unhedged fuel.”

O’Leary also pointed to the success of the firm’s efforts to improve customer service, which he said helped drive stronger forward bookings and boost traffic growth.

Looking beyond the current year, Ryanair predicted it would fly 180 million passengers a year by 2024 – 20 million more than previously forecast, due to higher-than-expected load factors.

These passenger numbers would give the carrier almost a quarter of the European market.

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