Virgin Atlantic defied the gloom among airlines by reporting a 7.6% increase in passengers in the year to April and a 38% rise in operating profits to £61 million.

Passenger numbers in the carrier’s premium cabin rose by 22%, taking total sales revenue to more than £2.3 billion

Virgin also reported strong traffic in the three months to July, with an increase in sales of 16% year on year to £645 million and a quarterly profit of £23.5 million.

The carrier said it had benefited from British Airways’ initial problems at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, which opened at the end of March.

Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson again hit out at BA’s plan for a tie up with American Airlines and Iberia, for which it is seeking anti-trust immunity. Branson said: “Consumers will lose out, and pay higher prices for the privilege, unless regulators block the proposed BA/American Airlines monopoly.”

A succession of airlines have issued profit warnings and announced cuts in services from October, including BA and Ryanair, in response to the high fuel price and declining demand.