Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary unveiled record profits for the airline today but admitted it is unlikely there will be a repeat performance this year.
The Dublin-based carrier flew 75.8 million passengers in the year to March 31, an increase of 5% on a year earlier and helping it to lift net profits by 25% to 502.6 million euro (£405 million).
A 30% jump in fuel costs was offset by a 16% rise in average fares, partly due to the grounding of 80 aircraft over the winter, while ancillary revenues such as in-flight sales surged 11% to 886.2 million euro (£714.7 million).
Ryanair expects passenger numbers to rise by another 5% this year but with its fuel bill increasing by another 320 million euro (£258 million) it has warned profits this year were likely to be in the range of 400 million euro (£323 million) and 440 million euro (£355 million).
Mr O'Leary said the combination of rising oil prices and EU-wide recession would continue to hurt the sector following the failures over the last year of Malev in Hungary, Spanair and Cimber Sterling in Denmark.
He added: “We expect more European failures in 2012, as higher oil prices and recession continues to expose failed airline models as well as subscale or peripheral carriers.”
Mr O'Leary said that despite the rising number of airline failures, many of Europe's governments continued to treat the sector and airline passengers as a “cash cow” to fund their taxation.
He said: “UK air passenger duty has caused traffic to decline by 6% since 2007, while the UK Government's 'do nothing' policy about runway capacity in the South East is encouraging traffic and tourism to bypass high-cost London airports in favour of expanding airports in Spain, France and Holland.”
Ryanair operates more than 1,500 flights a day from 51 bases across 28 countries. It has a fleet of 294 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with a further 11 on order, and employs 8,500 people.
Staff costs increased by 12% to 415 million euros (£334 million) during the financial year, reflecting an 11% rise in the number of hours flown and a company-wide pay hike of 2% in April last year.