Bumper Christmas sends Ryanair soaring

Christmas hit the spot for Ryanair and the airline was able to upgrade its profit forecast, even as losses rose at an Austrian subsidiary.

The company said that is expecting to carry 154 million passengers in the full financial year, up by one million from previous forecasts.

On top of a stronger-than-expected Christmas, bookings are also up by 1% going into the first three months of the year.

The company now expects profit after tax for the financial year to reach between 950 million euros (£806 million) to 1.05 billion euros (£891 million).

It is an increase from previous guidance of between 800 million euros (£679 million) and 900 million euros (£764 million).

“On the basis of current trading, Ryanair expects to finish close to the mid-point of this new range,” it said.

Even amid the Christmas cheer, the business was forced to recognise problems at its Austrian subsidiary Laudamotion. There, average fees were lower than expected, even though traffic grew rapidly and planes were full.

The business, Ryanair said, was forced to compete against heavy discounts from rivals. Lufthansa and its subsidiaries were selling tickets at below cost.

As a result, net loss at Laudamotion will widen by 10 million euros (£8.49 million) to around 90 million euros (£76.4 million).

Shares in the budget carrier opened 8.5% higher at 16.5p. It also helped push up EasyJet by 6.5% and British Airways owner IAG by 5%.

It comes after a year characterised by strikes and grounded planes.

The airline was forced to shut bases in Germany and Sweden after news that deliveries of new 737 Max planes were to be delayed.

The Boeing plane has been grounded after being involved in two fatal crashes. Regulators have banned the plane from flying until they can be sure that concerns over mechanical and design problems have been addressed.

The company narrowly avoided a pilots’ strike in September when the union called it off.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) were set to walk out amid a “acrimonious” relationship with Ryanair, but called off the strikes at the last minute.

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