Ryanair has seen half year net profits rise by 17% to €452 million on the back of a 23% increase in revenues to €2.2 billion.


The budget airline giant saw traffic grow by 10% to 40.1 million passengers in the six months to September 30.


Average fares were up by 12% to €44 year-on-year although unit costs rose by 13% as flight sector length increased by 12% due to new routes and bases at Faro, Malaga and Malta.


Full year net profit is expected to exceed the upper end of previous forecasts of €350 million to €375 million and finish at between €380 million and €400 million.


This comes despite Ryanair being forced to cancel 9,400 flights with the loss of 1.45 million passengers in the wake of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in April and May.


An original estimate of exceptional costs of €50 million through passenger refunds has been reduced to €32 million in actual claims.   


The carrier has also been forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights and delay a further 12,000, disrupting over 2.5 million passengers, as a direct result of repeated Belgian, French and Spanish air traffic control strikes and work to rules.


Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “These highly paid protected bureaucrats have now disrupted more passengers than the Icelandic volcano and still the EU sits idly by and does nothing.


“We have called on the EU Commission to reform ATC by removing the ‘right to strike’ for such an essential service, as well as deregulating Europe’s ATC services to allow non striking ATC’s to keep EU skies open.”


O’Leary reiterated his call for Stansted and Glasgow airports to be sold off by airports operator BAA


“We welcome the recent UK Court of Appeal decision which upheld the Competition Commission’s recommendation that the BAA airport monopoly be broken up in the interest of competition and a better deal for consumers,” he said.


“Their dismissal of the BAA monopoly’s appeal means the sale of Glasgow and Stansted airports can now proceed, which will lead to much needed competition and a better deal for airport users and passengers.


“This, we hope, will allow the new owners to work with Ryanair to reverse Stansted’s traffic declines in recent years.”


He described the hike in half year profits as “testimony to the robustness” of Ryanair’s “lowest costlowest fare” model which continues to deliver traffic and profit growth even during a deep recession.


“We continue to gain market share across Europe from the big three high fare flag carrier groups led by Air France, BA and Lufthansa.


“We expect this trend to continue as consumers switch to Ryanair for the lowest fares, the most on time flights, and the best customer service,” said O’Leary.
 
He said the outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year “remains cautious”.


O’Leary said: “Based on Q3 forward bookings we now anticipate that winter (H2) yields will be slightly better than previously forecast, so we expect the full year yield increase to be at the upper end of the +5% to +10% range previously guided, i.e. close to 10%.”


Ryanair is making its final flights out of Belfast City Airport in protest against delays in plans for a runway extension. The carrier has been operating from the airport since 2007 on five routes – London Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands, Prestwick and Liverpool.