Ryanair profits take off

INTERIM PROFITS at Ryanair, the budget airline, soared to record levels despite a bitter price war in the European market and the recent weakness of sterling against the Irish punt.

The Dublin airline yesterday said pre-tax profit rose 24 per cent to Ipounds 29.4m (pounds 26m) for the six months to 30 September, compared with pounds 21.28m a year ago. Low-cost Ryanair said the rise had been achieved in spite of intense competition, adding that there could be at least one casualty among its rivals.

Fares on major routes in Europe have plunged as budget operators, including Go, easyJet, Air UK, Ryanair and Debonair, have begun competing with established carriers such as KLM and British Midland.

But Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: "We remain confident that our operating and trading performance will continue to be resilient despite the increasingly competitive market."