Aer Lingus has announced an operating profit of $66 million (€49.1million) for last year. An increase in fuel prices and airport charges saw their profits drop by more than $2.6 million (€2 million) in 2011, officials reported.

Ireland’s second biggest airline said the annual results were better than anticipated mainly due to stronger yields. Speaking about the results, Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said they demonstrated how effective changes have been.

"This is the second consecutive year of good profitability under our new strategy and demonstrates the success of the changes we have made to our business over the past two years," he said.

"While the 2011 operating result was lower than that reported for 2010, it was nonetheless significantly ahead of our expectations at the start of 2011 and was achieved against a difficult backdrop of non-controllable fuel price inflation, increased airport charges and challenging demand conditions in our primary markets."

Meuller said the company focused on consolidating the turnaround achieved during 2010.

"This included refining our demand led network strategy, continuing to drive increased revenue per seat, while remaining competitive, and pushing the Greenfield cost reduction programme," he added.

"I am pleased to report that we have achieved these objectives."

The Irish government is expected to sell it’s 25 percent stake in the airline when it can ensure a good value-for-money return.

Aer Lingus' exports to US is hugely important to IrelandGoogle Images