Passenger numbers soar at 'cuddly' Ryanair

The budget airline launched a charm offensive last year after two profit warnings in 2013

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The Independent Online

Michael O’Leary’s new “nice-guy” persona helped Ryanair boost its customer numbers by 28 per cent last month.

The budget airline launched a charm offensive last year after two profit warnings in 2013 and has introduced changes including a free second carry-on bag and allocated seating. Unveiling the Always Getting Better programme, the outspoken Mr O’Leary was even presented to the media cuddling a puppy.

Ryanair said yesterday it carried 6.7 million passengers in March, up from 5.2 million in the same month last year. Its load factor, indicating how full its planes are, rose to 90 per cent from 80 per cent.

The company also said it planned to roll out phase two of its customer service revolution this year. Proposals include a new website and phone app, new cabin interiors, new crew uniforms and inflight menus, reduced airport fees and fare comparison services, according to Kenny Jacobs, the chief marketing officer.

The regional carrier Flybe also had good news yesterday, forecasting that it will break even in the year ending 31 March, one year into a three-year turnaround programme. Passenger numbers rose 15 per cent in the fourth quarter.

During the year it exited the loss-making joint venture with Finnair and, without penalties, a $1bn (£670m) obligation to buy 24 additional Embraer E175s. At the same time it agreed to buy young, “attractively priced” turbo-prop Bombadier Q400s.

Saad Hammad, Flybe’s chief executive, said: “There is clearly more to do… However, one year into our turnaround we have a clear line of sight towards profitable growth.”

Shares in Ryanair climbed 22 cents to €11.08 yesterday, while Flybe shares were 0.25p higher at 57.75p.