Budget airline Ryanair is to cut fares by up to 10 per cent next year in a bid to steal market share from struggling rivals.
The carrier, which serves a large number of destinations from Leeds-Bradford Airport, has plans to fly an additional five million passengers over the winter period.
The group, Europe’s biggest low cost carrier, raised its annual profit forecast by almost 20 per cent following a surge in winter bookings.
Ryanair recently slashed fees, improved its website and boosted its marketing budget after outspoken chief executive Michael O’Leary admitted excessive cost-cutting was scaring customers away.
It now expects annual profits of up to £602m, a rise of 18 per cent on its previous guidance.
Profits for the summer half-year were 32 per cent higher at £621.6m.
“We’ve had a bumper half year and we’ve had to boost our guidance as we got visibility on the second half of the year,” said Mr O’Leary.
“We are keeping prices low while improving the service. It’s as simple as that.”
The sale of two million more tickets than planned over the winter will consolidate the airline’s position as Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers, boosting annual numbers to 89 million, up 8.5 per cent over the previous year.
Ryanair said it plans to cut fares by up to five per cent in the three months to December and by up to 10 per cent in the first three months of next year.
A new business class fare unveiled over the summer, which gives travellers a number of perks for an extra £39, is expected to help drive bookings in the traditionally weaker winter season, Mr O’Leary said.
The business class seat is being launched by new chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, a veteran of Tesco and Moneysupermarket.com.
The annual marketing budget has tripled this year to £27m.
A significant factor in Ryanair’s improvement is a change in policy to sell tickets earlier, a policy which has reduced the number of empty seats on planes and increased last minute fares. Its recent drive to improve its image is showing signs of paying off.