Ryanair renews Brexit warning despite £1.7bn revenue
Ryanair, which flies to 12 destinations from Belfast, has posted a jump in first-quarter profits, but again warned that Brexit could cause it to ground flights and cancel holidays unless a deal with the EU is struck.
The low-cost carrier, which opened a base in Belfast International Airport last year, posted a 13% rise in revenue to €1.9bn (£1.7bn) in the three months to June 30, while profits soared 55% to €397m (£356m).
Ryanair was boosted by the timing of Easter and saw a 12% rise in customer numbers to 35 million. Average fares rose 1% in the period, but it expects fares to fall by 5% in the first six months of the year and by 8% in the second amid tough competition in the sector and as Ryanair passes on lower fuel costs.
"We expect the pricing environment to remain very competitive," boss Michael O'Leary said.
Ryanair's chief financial officer Neil Sorahan insisted that the airline is "never that worried per se about fares".
Mr Sorahan told a central London press conference: "We're what we call load active yield passive, which means that we'll always hit the passenger target and the market more or less dictates what they're going to pay for those seats."
By maximising passenger numbers the airline can achieve discounts in airport fees, spread its fixed costs among more customers and sell more ancillary products such as on-board drinks, car hire and accommodation, he said.
"We will happily trade away fares to drive the other elements of the business and as you can see we're growing quite profitably," Mr Sorahan added.
The group again sounded the alarm bell on Britain's divorce from the EU as Conservative ministers scramble to strike an aviation deal with the EU before March 2019.