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[DUBLIN] Irish airline Ryanair's first-half net profits soared by nearly 40 per cent on keen demand, the strong pound, fuel savings and poor weather conditions in northern Europe, it said Monday.
The Dublin-based carrier added in a results statement that it was on target to hit the upper end of its annual earnings forecast, aided also by ongoing improvements to customer services.
Earnings after taxation jumped 37 per cent to 1.09 billion euros (S$1.7 billion) in the six months to the end of September, compared with 795 million euros a year earlier.
Passenger numbers swelled 13 per cent to 58.1 million people and revenues grew 14 per cent to 4.04 billion euros.
"We have enjoyed a bumper summer due to a very rare confluence of favourable events including stronger sterling, adverse weather in northern Europe, reasonably flat industry capacity and further savings on our unhedged fuel," said chief executive Michael O'Leary.
He added that the airline's "Always Getting Better" customer services programme was "driving stronger forward bookings, higher load factors" and "accelerating traffic growth." Ryanair predicted full-year net profit would be towards the upper end of its forecast range of between 1.175-1.225 billion euros.
O'Leary said it was now the airline's target to carry 180 million passengers per year by 2024, from an earlier goal of 160 million.
He said lower fuel costs would save the airline 430 million euros next year, while it had already hedged 95 per cent of its fuel for next year.
The airline confirmed it will return a special dividend of 398 million euros to shareholders this month after the sale of its stake in Irish competitor Aer Lingus to the International Airlines Group earlier this year.
The company moved to overhaul its approach to customer service in 2014 in the wake of years of negative publicity.
Ryanair said it would carry a record 105 million passengers this year, raising its earlier forecast of 104 million people issued only last month.