Irish budget airline Ryanair yesterday said it was not changing its profit forecast - despite rising fuel costs.

The Dublin-based carrier still expects to post a ten per cent rise in full year earnings.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "We had a fair idea of what fuel would be at the end of quarter one and we are almost fully hedged to the end of March."

Ryanair, Europe's largest no-frills carrier, said in August it expected a fullyear net profit of £211 million, having reported a 21 per cent rise in net profit for the first quarter to the end of June of £64.4 million.

Mr O'Leary said he still expected yields, or average fares per passenger, to rise one to two per cent in the second quarter on the same period last year.

However, he said it was difficult to predict what would happen this winter.

The swollen ranks of US airlines who have resorted to bankruptcy to rebuild their finances were yesterday joined by Delta Air and Northwest Airlines.

With the latest additions, three of America's five biggest carriers are legally broke.

Delta, the third-biggest US airline, has been fighting for years to bolster its financial condition while Northwest, also smarting financially, hit the wall when its unions balked at further pay cuts.

Common to both carriers was a relentless rise in jet fuel prices - up 50 per cent this year. They have assured the public they will keep flying.

Meanwhile, Scandinavian Airlines System has introduced further services from Birmingham Airport. SAS now flies to Stockholm three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.