Ryanair posts quarterly loss but forward bookings rising

Budget carrier reported its biggest third-quarter loss in five years as fares fall nearly 10%

Ryanair reported its biggest third-quarter loss in five years on Monday as average fares slumped 9%, but management said intense price competition in Europe was easing and forward bookings were up.

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, issued its first profit warnings in a decade last year on weak winter bookings but has said it hopes to bounce back by improving its customer service.

The carrier said it lost €35m (£28m) in the three months to 31 December, its worst performance in its traditionally weak third quarter since 2008.

Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said the loss, due to lower average fares and weaker sterling, was expected and he reaffirmed the airline’s guidance for profit of between €500m and €520m for the year.

“Market pricing remains soft but is no longer declining,” he said.

Ryanair flew 6% more passengers in the last three months of 2013 compared with a year earlier, but revenue was flat due to the fall in ticket prices.

British rival easyJet by comparison increased revenue 7.7% on passenger numbers growth of 4% in the same period.

After being voted the worst of the 100 biggest brands serving the British market by readers of consumer magazine Which?, Ryanair said last year it was cutting baggage and boarding card fees, allowing passengers to bring a second carry-on bag and introducing assigned seating on all planes.

Deputy chief executive Michael Cawley said the changes had not yet had an impact on profit, but that there signs the strategy was starting to bear fruit.

“There has been a very positive reaction … particularly in terms of forward bookings which we have never had as substantially ahead,” Cawley said.

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