Spanish LCC Volotea said it achieved a record operating profit in 2018 as it continues to expand in its niche sector.

Barcelona-based Volotea connects second- and third-tier European cities, cutting out major hubs and specializing in routes that are generally too thin to attract the major LCCs.

The company said revenues rose 29% to €396.1 million ($441.6 million) over 2017’s figure of €307.5 million. Ticket revenues were up 28% at €258.4 million and ancillary revenue up 31% at €137.7 million.

Operating profit (EBIT) was up 63% at €13.6 million, compared to €8.3 million in 2017.

A company spokesman said that, as a privately owned company, Volotea was not obliged to provide a net profit figure, although records show that in 2017 a net figure of €11.2 million was posted. The spokesman added the airline had produced a positive net profit figure since 2015.

The latest profit figures were achieved despite a substantial rise in the number of employees, with an average headcount of 888, up by 230 compared to 2017.

Last year, Volotea carried 6.57 million passengers (up 36.1% on the previous year) and achieved a 93.1% load factor, a 7.7% jump on 2017. The airline has been expanding rapidly in recent years, having recorded a 40% increase in passenger numbers in 2017.

Volotea founder and CEO Carlos Muñoz said the figures “prove the success of our strategy connecting mid-sized European cities with direct flights, avoiding hubs. Also, adding additional Airbus A319s allows us to increase our capacity with a more cost-competitive aircraft, increasing our profitability year-on-year.”

The airline is in the middle of a fleet rollover from the Boeing 717 to the larger Airbus A319; it has a current combined fleet of 30 aircraft but expects this to grow to between 40 and 60 by 2022.

Alan Dron