Hiking air fares around Christmas helped Ryanair to shrug off rising fuel costs in the last three months of 2012 and saw the budget carrier today raise its profit expectations for the year.
The Irish airline flew an extra 600,000 passengers during the quarter to New Year’s Eve, taking its total number of fliers to 17.3 million.
Ryanair benefited from rival airlines cutting routes; its average fare jumped 8% in the three months, which helped pre-tax profit to grow by 21% to €18.1 million (£15.4 million).
That was despite the carrier’s fuel costs rising by €81 million.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary also warned its fourth quarter, the traditionally tough three months from January to March, would see passenger numbers fall by about 400,000 as Ryanair has grounded about 80 planes to limit the impact of expensive fuel bills and airport fees at Stansted and Dublin.
But the airline still told the City to upgrade forecasts for annual profit to around €540 million.
Earlier guidance had been for pre-tax profit to be between €490 million and €520 million. O’Leary added that Ryanair had given EU regulators a “radical and unprecedented remedies package” in the latest twist in its €694 million bid for Aer Lingus, which is its third attempt at buying the rival airline.
Flybe said last week that it would consider taking over some of the Aer Lingus routes where the two Irish airlines currently compete only with each other, to guarantee competition.