Ryanair bookings for the important Easter season will probably beat those notched up in 2010 because of a better route selection for fliers, its deputy chief executive and chief financial officer Howard Millar has said.
Mr Millar was speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday as the airline released third-quarter results that showed it made a €10.3m loss in the period to the end of December, having earlier predicted that it would break even.
The loss was in line with the almost €11m loss the carrier reported in the third quarter in the previous financial year. It also confirmed it was on target to post a net profit for the current financial year at the high end of a €380m to €400m range it previously forecast.
Bad weather during December and air traffic control strikes in France and Spain in the latter part of 2010 forced Ryanair to cancel over 3,000 flights in the quarter, compared with the 1,400 it had to cancel in the corresponding quarter of 2010.
Despite that, revenue for the quarter climbed 22pc to €746m as average fares rose 15pc.
The number of passengers carried rose 6pc year-on-year to 17 million. Ancillary revenues, which include sales of anything from on-board tea and coffee to car rentals, jumped 20pc to just over €167m. Overall operating expenses for the last quarter were 22pc higher at €746.5m, which included a 37pc rise in fuel costs to €283.7m.
Ryanair has 90pc of its fuel costs for the current quarter hedged at an average cost that's 16pc less than the current spot price of $890 (€650) per tonne of fuel. It also has 80pc of its 2012 financial year fuel requirement hedged at an average price of $800 per tonne. Mr Millar said the airline was continuing a rolling hedging policy.
He added that Ryanair was "very happy" with the current passenger load factor, which for the last quarter was up one percentage point to 83pc.
"Easter is already filling up well and we expect it to be even stronger than last year due to a better selection of routes," he added.
Mr Millar also maintained that sentiment towards Ryanair had been impacted by analysis that questioned its growth potential in light of current economic conditions here. He said that only 10pc of Ryanair traffic now originated in Ireland.
The results were broadly welcomed by analysts, with shares in the airline closing relatively flat in Dublin at €3.65.