Flybe ends four years of losses

A Flybe aircraft taxies at Gatwick airport Flybe embarked on a cost cutting programme in January 2013

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Flybe has reported its first pre-tax profit in four years thanks to a cost-cutting plan which began last year.

The airline said it made a pre-tax profit of £8.1m for the year to 31 March, compared with losses of £41.1m a year earlier.

Chief executive Saad Hammad said Flybe had also made "good start" to 2015.

In January 2013, the airline embarked on a costing cutting programme, which included 300 job losses, in an attempt to save £35m.

At the time, the Exeter-based firm said the cost cutting plan would see it return to profitability in 2014.

European airlines have been under pressure for several years as cash-strapped customers took fewer flights following the 2008 financial crisis.

Soaring fuel costs and higher airport charges have also squeezed profit margins.

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Neil Gallacher, BBC South West business correspondent

Flybe's new broom has been wielded vigorously.

The new chief executive, Saad Hammad, formerly of easyJet, took over only 10 months ago.

Today he speaks about the rebirth of the airline, and he has the numbers to back him up.

In particular, he has cut seats by 1.4% but grown passenger numbers by 6.9%. He's cut staff, raised £150m on the stock market and given his fleet a gaudy new livery.

In Exeter, where Flybe is a hugely important local employer, they'll be hoping that this once-endangered airline is now in for a purple patch.

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Flybe's cost cutting programme saw it give up airport slots, exit unprofitable routes and ground surplus planes.

The airline said revenue this year had risen by 1% to £620.5m. Analysts had expected Flybe to report pre-tax profits of £6.4m on revenue of £623.9m.

Flybe operates flights mainly within the UK but also operates some scheduled flights to European destinations.

Mr Hammad said: "The return to profitability is a great step forward. This enables us to start implementing our twin-engine strategy of growing our UK branded business and our white label operations across Europe."

It said the general economic outlook in the UK had improved, with the economy growing by 1.9% in 2013.

Most analysts expect the UK economy to grow by between 2.4% to 3.5% this year, Flybe chairman Simon Laffin said.

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