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Winter wonderland for Ryanair

Ryanair's profit hopes continued to climb after December's benign weather helped the airline deliver a 13% rise in quarterly revenues.

With fewer planes in operation over the winter, longer routes and increased ticket prices across the industry, Ryanair said its average fare was up by 17%, a figure which includes the impact of passenger luggage fees.

The Dublin-based operator reported better-than-expected profit of €15m (£12.6m) for the three months to December 31 and said the figure for the year to March 31 should now hit €480m (£403.2m). That is better than the €440m (£369.6m) predicted in November, which itself represented a €40m (£33.6m) upgrade on its previous estimate.

The quarterly improvement, which compares with widespread snow closures at airports during the previous December, came despite an 18% rise in fuel costs, which Ryanair said it offset by "aggressively" controlling costs.

However, it is braced for its fuel bill in the next financial year to increase by a further €350m (£294m), which it warns will pose a 'significant cost challenge'.

It has paid for 90% of its fuel in the first half of the year at around $99 a barrel and at $100 for 70% of the second half.

The airline carried 17m passengers in the quarter to December 31, a fall of 2%, but revenues were up 13% to €746m (£626.6m). The profits figure of €15m, compared with a loss of €10m (£8.4m) a year earlier.

The company has pulled 80 of its aircraft to reduce winter losses amid soaring fuel prices and cut traffic by 2% over the quarter.