Annual profits for Emirates Airline - which is to launch its long awaited second daily service from Birmingham International Airport to Dubai on June 1 - have rocketed nearly 50 per cent.

Founded in 1985 with just two aircraft, fast growing Emirates yesterday said that net profits rose 48.7 per cent to £335.2 million for the year to the end of March, while total revenue increased 36 per cent to £3 billion.

The carrier said growth in tourism and business travel through its Dubai hub, heavy investment in its fleet and a non-union workforce all contributed to its performance.

Emirates is in the the middle of an expansion drive that will see it taking delivery of a new plane once a month for the next seven years.

It added nine aircraft in 2004-2005, taking the fleet to 75 at the end of the year.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Group which owns the unlisted carrier, said the airline benefited from having its base at the region's busiest airport, Dubai International.

Passenger numbers increased 20 per cent to 12.5 million, he said.

However, higher fuel costs dented profits and will continue to pose a challenge in the current financial year.

"Had fuel prices stayed at the levels they were two years ago, we could have made even higher profits," Sheikh Ahmed said.

The airline's total costs increased 35 per cent to £2.61 billion, driven mainly by a doubling in fuel costs, to £546.5 million.

Fuel accounted for 21 per cent of costs in 2004-05, up from 14 per cent the previous year.

Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates had conducted a study about listing the company on a stock exchange but that there were no firm plans yet to take the company public.

He denied that Emirates Group received any subsidies from its owner, the government of Dubai.

Emirates Group, which also owns a company that provides airport and other services, posted net profit of £433.3 million, up 49 per cent from the year-ago period.

Sheikh Ahmed declined to give any new details of planned aircraft purchases but said Emirates was reviewing a range of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus.

However, it is taking 45 of the new Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft.

He said the airline's operating margins improved over the year.

Its seat load factor rose to 74.6 per cent, from 73.4 per cent.

The absence of labour unions in the UAE also helps Emirates outperform some rivals in Europe and the US, Sheikh Ahmed said.

"It is not the unions who control the airline, but the management and the director at the top," he said.

"Since we started the airline in 1985, our competitors seem to find it incomprehensible that we can make profits by having a skilful team, being a market leader and investing heavily in new equipment - surely the criteria for any successful company?"