Wizz Air profits plunged by almost 88% to under €2 million despite rising passenger carryings in the final quarter of 2018.

Passenger numbers rose by 15% or one million to 8.1 million year-on-year with a load factor up two percentage points to 91%.

The quarterly profit fell from €14 million in the same period last year to €1.7 million although revenue was up 21.2% to €512.7 million.

However, the Hungarian budget carrier maintained its net profit guidance for the 12 months to the end of March at between €270 million-€300 million despite Brexit uncertainty.

The airline’s chief executive Jozsef Varadi, reviewing the three months to December 31: “Due to higher fuel prices we proactively adjusted growth capacity to help offset the cost pressure with higher yields.

“Our industry leading aircraft utilisation, which helps drive our unit costs lower, was negatively impacted by the capacity adjustments in the quarter, but with the recent fall in fuel prices we will be increasing our utilisation levels back to the high levels from the start of F20 [the next financial year].

“The introduction of a new carry-on bag policy in November of last year contributed to a strong performance in ancillary revenue with unit revenue per passenger 7% higher in the quarter.

“The company maintains its net profit guidance range of between €270 million and €300 million for the full year, where we will be within this range will depend on the extent of March yield pressures which will be affected year-on-year given Easter falls after the financial year-end in April and external factors such as Brexit uncertainty.”

He added: “Wizz Air remains well on track to deliver its mission to be the undisputed ultra-low cost carrier in the industry as cost leadership positions the airline for disproportionate growth opportunities across central and eastern Europe and western Europe, and makes us an increasingly formidable business under any market circumstances.

“The roll out of our A321neo fleet will commence in the fourth quarter, which combined with our industry leading unit cost, a highly valued employee base and an investment grade balance sheet with €1.1 billion of free cash makes Wizz Air a structural winner in the European airline industry.”