Booking hike 'fuels Ryanair recovery'

Low-cost airline Ryanair signalled a recovery in fortunes today after a series of promotions helped bookings surge at the start of this year.

The Dublin-based carrier racked up a loss of €35m for the final three months of last year as a result of a 9% fall in average fares and currency weakness.

However, it said the impact of seat promotions and lower fares meant forward bookings in the current quarter and into the new financial year were running significantly ahead of last year, albeit at weaker margins.

The company, which issued its second profits warning in as many months in November, said it stuck by its previous guidance for profits of around €510m in the year to March 31.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary has attempted to reinvent the image and reputation of Ryanair by relaxing bag restrictions for passengers as well as through a reduction in baggage charges and an easing of booking conditions.

In the last few days it has moved to fully allocated seating on all flights, meaning that passengers who do not pay €5 to select their seats will be allocated them during the 24 hours prior to the date of departure. It said the policy was in response to customer feedback.

The airline operates more than 1,600 routes from 65 bases and carries in excess of 80 million passengers every year.

Over the next five years, the airline plans to grow to more than 110 million customers a year, with much of the growth seen at primary airports.

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