Ryanair shares hit record high
Budget airline Ryanair has seen its shares hit an all-time high after a drive to improve its image helped attract a million extra passengers last month.
The Dublin-based carrier said passenger numbers in December jumped 20% on a year before to 6.02 million.
Its load factor - a measure of how full the planes are - increased 7% to 88% over the last 12 months.
The surge follows a drive by Ryanair to improve customer service by softening its stance on baggage charges and booking conditions after suffering two profit warnings at the end of 2013.
Its shares lifted more than 3% on the Irish stock exchange today and have jumped 59% over the past year.
Over the 12 months to December the airline, led by chief executive Michael O'Leary, said passenger numbers lifted 6% to 86.4 million.
Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said the airline was benefiting from its Always Getting Better customer programme as well as lower fares and stronger forward bookings.
In August the carrier introduced its business class service, called Business Plus, which includes flexible tickets, priority boarding and premium seating.
The moves came after budget rival easyJet built up a sizeable business class base over recent years by selling additional services.
Last May Ryanair unveiled annual post-tax profits that were 8% lower at 523 million euro after a price war left average fares 4% lower at a time of rising fuel costs. It was the firm's first drop in annual profits in five years.
But in November as demand increased it said it expected annual profits of up to 770 million euro, a rise of 18% on previous guidance.
The airline operates more than 1,600 routes from 68 bases across Europe. Last summer Ryanair launched 57 new routes and added four new bases in Athens, Brussels, Lisbon and Rome.