Ryanair boosted its annual profit forecast yesterday thanks to a spate of bookings at higher-than-expected prices in late February and March.
The budget carrier is now predicting that profits will come in at not less than €310m (£275m) when it reports its results in early June. Before yesterday's announcement, the group was predicting profits of €275m, while the earliest forecasts for financial 2009 were at the lower end of the €200m to €300m range.
To some extent, the change is a reflection of Ryanair's usual bearish forecasting – early predictions that prices could fall as much as 20 per cent last year were revised to 15 per cent and may come in nearer 10 per cent.
The revised guidance also reflects underlying improvements in the recession-hit aviation industry. "Much of the improvement is still anecdotal," Gert Zonneveld, a transport expert at Panmure Gordon, said. "But economic growth is picking up and general sentiment is far better than at this time last year, and that is translating into better-than-expected demand."
Ryanair may also have picked up some passengers put off by the strikes at British Airways. But although the Irish company was selling itself hard as an alternative in the run-up to the strike, the chief executive Michael O'Leary subsequently expressed his full support for BA's Willie Walsh, and leased him some Ryanair planes to help the company keep some routes open.