Ryanair has lifted its full-year profit forecast by 25% because of better-than-expected passenger traffic in the summer. The Irish budget airline now expects profit in the range of €1.18bn (£860m; $1.32bn) to €1.23bn for 2015, up from the previous range of €940m to €970m.
Ryanair said poor weather in northern Europe and a strong pound had encouraged more British families to holiday in the Mediterranean. The company also credited its "Always Getting Better" customer experience programme for driving increased traffic at slightly higher fares. The news sent shares in the company soaring by nearly 10% to an all-time high of €14.
In a statement, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the firm had not intended to issue an update to its profit forecast until its annual general meeting on 24 September, but the "strength of its July and August numbers is continuing into September and the scale of the upgrade" had forced the update to be brought forward.
"We have been surprised by the strength of close-in bookings and fares this summer during which we delivered record 95% load factors in both July and August while fares grew by over 2%, when we had expected them to be flat," he said. But he cautioned that not all of the improvement was down to "either our model or our management".
"We have clearly benefitted from favourable industry trends this summer including bad weather across northern Europe, stronger sterling encouraging more UK families to holiday in the Med, reasonably flat capacity across the EU industry and lower prices for our unhedged oil," O'Leary noted."
He added: "Being the airline industry we do not expect these favourable conditions will persist, and we would urge shareholders and analysts to avoid irrational exuberance while we continue to execute our very ambitious growth plans during what we expect to be very attritional and sustained fare wars across Europe this winter."
Ryanair hiked its estimate of passenger traffic growth in the first six months of the year to 13%, from 10%, and predicted a 15% increase for the period from July to September. The airline also said it had recovered all of the funds (less than $5m) that were the subject of a fraudulent electronic transfer to a Chinese bank in April.