Full-year profit at Europe’s leading budget airline Ryanair has soared 66% after tax in the year to the end of March to €867 million.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary credited the low-cost Irish airline’s efforts to broaden its customer appeal under its “Always Getting Better’ campaign.

“We are pleased to celebrate Ryanair’s 30th Birthday by reporting this 66% increase in net profit which demonstrates the enduring strength of Ryanair’s lowest fare/lowest cost model which has been transformed by the success of our ‘Always Getting Better’ (AGB) customer experience programme.  AGB has attracted millions of new customers to Ryanair,” he said.

The airline reported passenger numbers for the year were up 11% to 90.6 million with load factors also up  from 83% to 88%, while unit costs were flat, although when fuel was included they fell 5%.

“We’ve rolled out a lot of initiatives that the customers have clearly liked,” said chief financial officer Neil Sorahan.

Allocated seating, an extra carry-on luggage and more business-friendly schedules all helped drive passenger numbers he added.

Average load factors in the first four months of 2015 were up 10% and forward bookings were 4% higher on average compared to a year earlier, Ryanair said.

Falling oil prices have prompted un-hedged rivals to cut fares, forcing Ryanair to follow suit, the carrier said.

“It would be foolish not to expect some irrational pricing response from competitors,” said Ryanair in a statement.
“Even with the benefit of lower oil, aircraft and financing costs, we may suffer periods of fare and yield weakness especially during the second-half winter season.”