Ryanair shares soared after it reported booming business and upgraded its annual profit forecast, as the budget airline reaps the benefit of its more customer-friendly approach.
The carrier credited its “always getting better” strategy for a 22% rise in customer numbers to 6.35 million in November, the first month of its expanded winter schedule, traditionally a quieter period. In the 12 months to November, passenger numbers rose 5% to 85.4m. Ryanair now expects just over 90 million customers to travel with it over the year, rather than 89 million, the second upgrade within a month.
It also flew fuller planes last month, with its “load factor” – which measures the percentage of seats filled by passengers – up 7% to 88%. Ryanair shares jumped 9% to €9.52 on the news.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary declared last month that the new approach was “working like a dream”, after the carrier decided in late 2013 to transform its customer service and stop “unnecessarily pissing people off”. Ryanair has scrapped a lot of unpopular policies, allowing more carry-on baggage, allocated seating and cutting punitive charges. Complaints to Ryanair were down 40% to 80,000 letters a year, O’Leary said last month.
Ryanair raised its after-tax profit forecast for this year to €810m (£636m) to €830m, from last month’s estimate of €750m to €770m and compared with last year’s profits of €523m. In the first half of this year, it made €795m.
The company said it had beaten its load factor targets across a number of destinations where it is offering business class flights in competition with longer established airlines. It launched a number of new city pair routes to appeal to business travellers, for example from Warsaw to Gdansk in Poland.
The carrier ordered another 200 aircraft in the last six months with a long-term goal of boosting passenger numbers to 150 million by the middle of the next decade.
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