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Virgin Atlantic bucks trend with profit jump

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  • Virgin Atlantic reports a sharp rise in profits, bucking industry trend
  • Pre-tax profits for the year ended February soar to $108 million
  • Airline says it benefited from a rise in premium passenger numbers
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(CNN) -- Virgin Atlantic reported a sharp rise in profits Tuesday, bucking the trend seen by other airlines.

Virgin Atlantic's profit has nearly doubled in the past year despite the recession.

Virgin Atlantic's profit has nearly doubled in the past year despite the recession.

The airline said its pre-tax profits for the year ended February soared from £34.8 ($55 million) in 2007/2008 to £68.4 ($108 million).

The carrier, majority owned by business mogul Richard Branson's Virgin Group, flew 5.8 million passengers over the period, helped by higher numbers of premium travelers -- most other airlines have seen a dramatic drop in the number of premium passengers.

Virgin said it spent nearly £1 billion ($1.58 billion) on fuel last year but profits were aided by its hedging of oil prices, which hit $147 dollars a barrel last July. Video Watch Virgin CEO talk about profit »

Only last week Virgin's trans-Atlantic rival, British Airways, reported it had slumped to a £220 million ($348 million) operating loss from a profit of £878 million ($1.4 billion) in 2008.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said he had never seen conditions as tough in his 30 years in the airline business.

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Walsh said BA's woes were inextricably linked to the downturn in the global economy and that there had been no sign of any "green shoots" of recovery.

It had been particularly hurt by a 13 percent fall in premium passenger numbers, an area where it had made good profits in the past, Walsh said.

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