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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 06:02 GMT 07:02 UK
Ryanair profits grow by 12%
Could Ryanair be losing its touch?

Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost airline, has reported a 12% rise in profit over the past three months.

The Irish firm made 43.8m euros (31m) during April, May and June, in line with expectations.

"During what BA last week described as the most testing period in aviation history, we continue to ...deliver increased profits," said chief executive Michael O'Leary.

Ryanair's European focus has sheltered it from the global slump in aviation caused by the spread of the deadly Sars virus in Asia.

While European passenger figures are on a par with last year, far fewer American and Asians are taking to the skies, the latest figures from the air transport body reveal.

Empty seats

Mr O'Leary told BBC radio that he had no desire to fly longhaul and that the best market was in Europe.

Despite the rise in profits, Ryanair has seen an increase in the percentage of empty seats on its flights, a key indicator of profitability.

Mr O'Leary attributed the decline in the so-called load factor to the launch of 50 new routes and insisted that things "had never been better".

One cloud on the horizon, however, is that the European Commission is currently investigating Ryanair's operation at Brussels Charleroi airport.

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