Ryanair passengers take off again after image overhaul
The introduction of new routes and an image overhaul has helped low-fare Irish airline Ryanair to substantially increase passenger numbers last month, according to new figures.
This follows rises in traffic for two other budget carriers -easyJet and Scandinavian airline Norwegian.
Ryanair pulled out of Belfast City Airport in 2010 following delays to a planned runway extension.
The airline still operates from City of Derry Airport.
Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary said at the time that if planning permission was ever granted for the runway extension in the future, that the airline would return.
As it raised its annual profit forecast for the fourth time this year, Ryanair said it carried 85.4 million passengers in the 12 months ending in November - a 5% rise on the previous year.
The airline said it now expected profits to be between €810m and €830m (£636m-£652m). Just last month Ryanair had raised its profit outlook by 20%.
The airline said it will fly more than 90 million passengers this year, a million more than it last predicted.
In November, the first month of Ryanair's bigger winter schedule when it flew 13% more seats and new city routes designed to appeal to business customers, numbers rose by 22% to 6.35 million.
Its planes were 7% fuller with popular new flights including Stansted to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lisbon, Cologne and Athens. As part of an image overhaul, Ryanair has improved its website, dropped fees and increased carry-on baggage allowance as well as offering allocated seating.
As a result, Mr O'Leary has said that complaints are down 40% to 80,000 letters a year.
The airline has ordered another 200 planes in the last six months to boost its network.
Ryanair added that its final full-year profit would still be heavily reliant on bookings and yields in its January-March quarter, over which it said it "presently has very little visibility". EasyJet carried more than 4.38 million passengers last month, which was 3.1% up on November last year.
In the 12 months ending in November, 65.2 million passengers flew with easyJet - a 6.6% increase on the previous year
Norwegian, whose services include flights from Gatwick to the US, carried 1.76 million passengers last month - a 5% rise on November last year.
Last month Sophie Dekkers, director of the UK market for easyJet, revealed plans for potential "exciting new leisure destinations" from Belfast as the airline reported a 21.5% rise in annual pre-tax profits to £581m for the 12 months to the end of September, up from £478m in the previous year. Ms Dekkers reiterated the airline's support for its Northern Ireland base at Belfast International Airport and said that further expansion may be in the pipeline next year.
In November, easyJet announced two new routes to Reykjavik and Split.
Earlier this week colourful Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary turned Santa Claus for one family at Shannon Airport to congratulate them for becoming the airline's 13 millionth passenger at the airport.
Piotr Rachuta and his wife Marta and four-year-old daughter Amelia were travelling back to Poland on the Shannon-Wroclaw flight when they got the news.
Mr O'Leary gave away a free flight to all passengers for the 10.05am Wroclaw flight. Mr Rachuta, who was travelling back home, said he was delighted with his unsuspecting win.