Higher costs dent Aer Lingus profits

Higher fuel prices and airport charges saw Aer Lingus' profits drop by more than €2m last year.

The carrier's operating profit was €49.1m in 2011, down from €52.5m.

However, the part-owned State airline said the annual results were better than anticipated, primarily due to stronger yields.

Total revenue was up 6% compared with 2010, with passenger numbers up by 1.8% and total yield per passenger up by 4.8%.

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said he was pleased with the annual report.

"This is the second consecutive year of good profitability under our new strategy and demonstrates the success of the changes we have made to our business over the past two years," he said.

"While the 2011 operating result was lower than that reported for 2010, it was nonetheless significantly ahead of our expectations at the start of 2011 and was achieved against a difficult backdrop of non-controllable fuel price inflation, increased airport charges and challenging demand conditions in our primary markets."

Mr Mueller said his focus in 2011 was to consolidate the turnaround achieved in 2010.

"This included refining our demand led network strategy, continuing to drive increased revenue per seat, while remaining competitive, and pushing the Greenfield cost reduction programme," he added.

"I am pleased to report that we have achieved these objectives."

The annual report showed the balance sheet remains robust, with gross cash of €894.8m as at December 31 2011.

The Irish Government is expected to sell its remaining 25% stake in the airline when conditions are more favourable and when it can ensure a good value-for-money return.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Qatar Airways, both based in the Middle East, are among a number of suitors which have been touted as potential bidders for the airline.

EU competition rules previously prevented Ryanair from buying it.

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