Jan. 28 - Low-cost airline Ryanair has hiked its full-year profit forecast thanks to strong demand in Northern Europe, which lifted average fares dramatically in the last three months of 2012. Ciara Sutton reports
540 million euros is today's daily digit - it's low-cost airline Ryanair's profit forecast for the year to March. The carrier's outlook has soared after reporting better-than-expected profit for the last three months of 2012. Europe's top low-cost airline has used its size to undercut struggling carriers. And it's benefitted from strong demand in Northern Europe, which lifted average fares dramatically. It says a surge in Christmas bookings plus an increase in passengers paying to reserve seats also helped beat expectations. But the low-frills company hasn't been immune from the euro zone crisis. It says sales in southern Europe are weak, especially in Spain. It now expects average fares to grow at a slower pace in the coming months. But Ryanair has been able to scoop up customers as rival airlines make cutbacks in the face of sluggish growth and high fuel costs. The Dublin-based carrier has even bigger plans on the horizon. It remains in negotiations with Boeing about a large plane order and says it's also confident that European Union antitrust regulators will approve its bid for Irish rival Aer Lingus.