Ryanair has reported a 20% increase in profits after tax, but warned it will only break even in 2009 due to rising oil prices.

In the year to March 31 2008, profit after tax increased by 20% to 480.9m euros compared to 401.4m in the previous year. This reflects a 20% increase in passenger numbers, a 1% decrease in fares and strong growth in ancilliary revenue.

Fuel costs rose by 14% to 791.3m euros, partly driven by a 27% increase in the number of hours flown.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Based on forward bookings, we now believe it likely that average fares for the coming year will rise by approximately 5% and if oil prices remain at 130 euro per barrel, then we expect to accordingly break even for 2009.”

Up to 20 aircraft, or 10% of Ryanair’s fleet, will be grounded in winter, mainly at Stansted and Dublin. High airport charges at these airports make it more profitable to ground aircraft rather than fly them, said the airline.

In flight mobile communication will be trialled on 14 aircraft from July. This will allow customers to receive calls and texts on their own mobile phones during flights and help generate additional ancillary revenue.