Traveller numbers increase as Ryanair cuts prices
Budget airline Ryanair has seen passenger numbers rise by a fifth as it cut prices to boost bookings in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.
The carrier's decision to drive down fares in the face of weakening demand caused by the atrocities in Brussels and Paris sparked a 20% rise in traffic to 24.9 million in the third quarter.
Just last month, Ryanair announced that it was returning to Belfast, starting flights to London Gatwick from Belfast International Airport.
Profits after tax more than doubled in the three months to December 31, up from €49m (£37m) in 2014 to €103m (£78m) last year.
Revenues also rose 17% to €1.3bn ( £1bn).
The Dublin-based airline said average fares were down 1% to €40 (£30) in the three months to December 31. It also pencilled a price fall of 6% for the fourth quarter.
It said it would deliver cheaper air fares by capitalising on record-low oil prices and passing down the savings made on its fuels hedges to consumers.
The four new bases it opened in Berlin, Corfu, Gothenburg and Milan Malpensa in the third quarter were all enjoying "strong advanced bookings", the carrier said.
The trading update came as the company also announced an €800m (£609m) shares buy-back programme.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary said a strong first half to the third quarter had been knocked back by "weaker pricing and bookings immediately after the terrorist events in Paris and Brussels."
"We reacted to this softness by running price promotions and discounted fares to stimulate double digit traffic growth," he added.
The company upgraded its expectations for traffic in the fourth quarter by 4% to 26%, with net profits predicted to be at the "upper end" of a range between €1.1bn (£893m) and €1.2bn (£931m).
Rival budget carrier easyJet saw its sales hit at the end of last year as some passengers stayed away following the terrorist attacks in Egypt and Paris, which left revenues per seat 3.7% lower over its first quarter to December 31.
Analyst Gerald Khoo at Liberum said Ryanair's revenues were "slightly better than expected," but the costs "were slightly worse".