Budget airline Flybe has returned to the black - posting pretax profits of #6.6 million for the year to March 31 compared with a loss on the previous year of #3.2 million.

The carrier - one of the main operators at Birmingham International Airport - said passenger numbers during the year rose 19.2 per cent to 4.03 million.

Jim French, chief executive and chairman of Flybe, said: "These two announcements demonstrate the progress that Flybe has made over the last few years.

"In 2004/5 we carried over four million passengers under the Flybe brand. We also carried 240,000 passengers on our Air France franchise routes which, including our charter operations grew the total number of passengers travelling with the Flybe brand to 4.27 million.

"The turnaround in our financial performance combined with the appointment of the non-executives will ensure Flybe meets the challenges ahead."

Flybe, which launched 29 new routes during the year, has also appointed four new independent non-executive directors to strengthen its board.

Charles Scott, chairman of William Hill since 2004, becomes senior independent non-executive and will chair the company's audit committee.

A chartered accountant, he joined Saatchi & Saatchi as chief financial officer and became chairman of Cordiant. He has held other non-executive positions including with airport group TBI.

David Longbottom will chair Flybe's remuneration committee, and has held a number of senior positions with the Dixons Group since joining in 1987 and was appointed to the main board as group human resources director in 2002.

Previously he worked with British Gas, Courtaulds and Lloyds of London and is currently senior independent non-executive director of Luminar.

Peter Smith, who will chair the safety committee, was previously chief executive of Menzies Aviation and a member of the Menzies board.

He was formerly commercial director of British Caledonian and then deputy marketing director of British Airways following the takeover of BCAL.

He left BA to form his own consultancy service specialising in aviation, which he later sold before joining Menzies where he developed one of Europe's leading aircraft ground handling companies.

The fourth new director is Alan Smith, currently chairman of Robert Dyas.

His career included being managing director of Superdrug, B&Q and the Victoria Wine Company before working for the Boddingtons Group as managing director. In 1996 he moved to Evans Halshaw Holdings as group chief executive before becoming chief executive of Somerfield from 2000 until 2002.

"These additions to the board signal the next step in the evolution of Flybe to a major force in European regional aviation," said Mr French.

"Each of these individuals brings a broad range of experiences across various business sectors and also considerable experience of operating on the boards of major international PLC's.

"I have no doubt that they will each make significant contributions to the future development of our business."