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Funeral flights bring in best profits, says Ryanair boss

HARD-pressed funeral goers are Ryanair's most profitable customers, chief executive Michael O'Leary revealed unapologetically yesterday.

His comments came as Ryanair unveiled record annual profits of €481m and detailed plans to ground up to four Dublin planes this winter.

"The best yields (fares) are VFRs (visiting friends and relatives) going to funerals," Mr O'Leary announced. "They book late because they don't tend to have much notice, and they tend to be price insensitive because they have to travel."

Someone travelling from Dublin to London's Stansted Airport for a funeral would have paid a fare of between €59.99 and €119.99 each way if they'd booked their flights yesterday, Ryanair's website shows.

Meanwhile, those with the luxury of booking even two weeks in advance could have booked flights from Dublin to Stansted for a basic fare of €0 and a maximum fare of €15.

Mr O'Leary's comments came in response to a question from a London-based analyst, who congratulated Ryanair on its "balanced customer base".

"I'm not sure who told you we had a balanced customer base but they were bull-shitting you," the Mullingar man replied. "We don't care whether you're (travelling for) business, leisure, or visiting friends and relatives.

"All we want to know about our customer base is that they've booked and we have their credit card number."

Ryanair also revealed plans to ground "between three and four" planes at Dublin this winter, along with about 16 planes at Stansted. The move would leave 18 or 19 planes at Dublin and 23 or 24 at Stansted.

Chief executive O'Leary said grounding the planes had "nothing to do with" soaring oil prices and was entirely due to airport charges.

"We will be writing to both airports in the next week asking for lower charges," he told a London conference call.

"If we get that then we'll be cutting back by less [than the total 20 planes]. If we get [the reply] we got last year -- "go to hell" -- then we will significantly cut back capacity."

Ryanair's scheduled revenue director Sean Coyle, however, told reporters the cutbacks were related to "both airport charges and oil". He added that if the price of oil continued to soar above its current €130 a barrel, Ryanair would consider grounding more of its 194-strong fleet.

Meanwhile, chief finance officer Howard Millar, said Ryanair would appeal against the European Commission's decision to block its takeover bid for Aer Lingus over a year ago.

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Ryanair's yesterday took a €91.6m hit, writing down the value of its 29.2pc stake in Aer Lingus to take account of the Irish national carrier's tumbling share price.


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