Exeter airline Flybe profits hit by volcano ash

Flybe plane
Image caption The airline expects to make pre-tax profits of about £22m in 2011

Disruption caused by Iceland's volcanic ash cloud and freezing winter weather helped push Exeter-based airline Flybe into making a loss over the last year.

The company made a pre-tax loss of £4.3m, compared with a profit of £24.6m the previous year.

The effects of the ash cloud and snow in December cost £18.1m said the firm.

The eruption of the volcano in April 2010, which affected flights in northern Europe, forced Flybe to cancel 3,177 flights.

Challenging time

It was also hit by a slump in demand from leisure passengers as a result of falling consumer confidence although travel by business customers held up.

The airline, which plans to expand into new European markets, expects to make pre-tax profits of about £22m in the current year.

The airline is introducing a fuel surcharge of £3 in September to help it deal with higher costs.

Chief executive Jim French said he was very pleased with the results in what had been a challenging time for airlines.

Shares were up 7% after Flybe confirmed it was in talks with other overseas airlines in Europe about the possibility of acquisitions, taking part in joint-ventures or using its expertise to help them expand.

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