Ryanair makeover paying off

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Ryanair said customer service was improving “rapidly” as the budget airline looks to recover from its first drop in annual profits in five years.

Post-tax profits were 8 per cent lower at 523 million euros (£426.5m) in the year to March 31 after a price war left average fares 4 per cent lower at a time of rising fuel costs.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary described the performance as disappointing but said efforts since September to reinvent Ryanair’s image and reputation helped passenger traffic rise 4 per cent in the second half of the year. It has also seen better booking trends and fuller planes.

Changes have included the relaxation of bag restrictions for passengers, a reduction in baggage charges and an easing of booking conditions.

The airline, which operates more than 1,600 routes from 68 bases, has also moved to fully allocated seating on all flights, meaning that passengers who do not pay five euros (£4.10) to select their seats will be allocated them during the 24 hours prior to the date of departure.

The company expects to fly 84.6 million passengers in the year to March 31 – a 4 per cent rise on a year earlier – although it remains “very cautious” about booking trends for the winter.

Overall, the airline is predicting a recovery in profits for the current year to between 580 million euros (£473m) and 620 million euros (£505.6m). Over the next five years, the airline plans to grow to more than 110 million customers a year.