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Ryanair profits up 66% as passenger numbers surge

Ryanair reported a 66 percent jump in profit after tax for the year to March after passenger numbers grew almost three times the targeted level, and forecast another rise in profit this year as improving service boosted load factors.

The Irish airline, Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers, said profit after tax was 867 million euros and would reach between 940 million and 970 million this year. Passenger numbers increased 11 percent to 90 million, compared to the 4 percent growth targeted at the start of the year.

Most of the growth was down to its improved customer service that has brought in lower fees, flexible tickets for business travellers and a move away from small regional airports and that this would continue in the year ahead, Ryanair said.

Ryanair planes on the tarmac in Stansted, U.K.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ryanair planes on the tarmac in Stansted, U.K.

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"Thanks to our lowest fares, our growth into primary airports and the remarkable impact of our 'Year 1 Always Getting Better' programme, we continue to experience strong demand and forward booking momentum," Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said in a statement.

Ryanair said its fares would be "broadly flat" in the six months to September. Its main rival easyJet has said revenue per seat would be down by about four percentage points in the three months to June.

Ryanair expects to increase passenger numbers by 10 percent in the year to March 2016, with around half of this at primary airports and about half at smaller regional airports.

Forward bookings to September are on average 4 percent ahead of last year, it said.

Ryanair's share price closed at 10.88 euros on Monday, up 58 percent compared to a year ago. That compared to an increase of just 1 percent at easyJet and 3 percent in the Thomson Reuters Europe Airlines Index.

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