Ryanair's passenger numbers in January rose 20% from last year to 2.042 million. The airline said in a statement that its passenger load factor - a measure of how many seats it has filled on its planes - was 74% in January compared to 71% a year ago.

Ryanair raised its full-year outlook earlier this week after posting a better than expected third-quarter profit, buoyed by struggling rivals who cut capacity or folded.

Ryanair, which is expanding aggressively amid tough competition, has consistently increased passenger numbers as more people travel within Europe on cheaper airfares.

The airline said that internet sales in January had accounted for 97% of all sales for the period.

Having predicted a 'bloodbath' for Europe's budget airlines this winter, Ryanair said its own prospects had improved as rivals have been forced to cut capacity.

Ryanair shares were up ten cent to €6.58 in Dublin this afternoon.