Norwegian Air reported fourth-quarter operating earnings above forecasts on Friday, and said it expected its profit to hit a fresh record this year.

The fourth quarter is normally a slow period for holiday travel in the northern hemisphere but Norwegian last month raised its earnings forecast for 2023 on the back of strong demand in the final two months of the year.

The budget carrier said it had increased its numbers of passengers in the fourth quarter to 4.7 million passengers from 4.6 million passengers a year ago.

Its October-December operating profit came in at 328 million Norwegian crowns ($31.08 million), above the 177 million crowns forecast in a poll of analysts compiled by the company.

"I am thrilled to announce that Norwegian achieved all-time high profits for 2023," CEO Geir Karlsen said in a statement.

The budget airline said its capacity - as measured by available seat kilometres (ASK) - is expected to rise by 12% this year, while it expects 2024 operating profit of between 2.5 billion and 3.2 billion crowns, up from 2.2 billion in 2023.

Analysts participating in the poll predicted on average an operating profit for 2024 of 2.56 billion crowns.

"Current booking trends are encouraging, and the duration of the booking curve has improved compared to the two previous years, giving improved visibility," the airline said.

Norwegian's Nordic rival SAS last month said it sees 2024 revenues

to exceed 48 billion Swedish crowns, and expects to emerge from an amended Chapter 11 plan of reorganisation by mid-year. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen, editing by Terje Solsvik)