Ryanair, Europe's largest cheap-fare airline, flying on 34 routes between the UK, Ireland and continental Europe, saw passenger numbers up 8 per cent to 1.27 million for the first quarter. It said it was on target to carry 6 million passengers in its next financial year.
The group, now the second-largest carrier of international passengers to and from the UK, said it was competing head-to-head with British Airways - which yesterday said it would cut back on economy class seats. Michael O'Leary, chief executive, said: "We have been competing with BA for three years. We are happy to take as many passengers as BA wants to turn away."
Ryanair announced pre-tax profits for the first quarter to 30 June of IRpounds 14.2m (pounds 12m), up from IRpounds 12.6m. Turnover was IRpounds 66.2m, up from IRpounds 57.8m.
The group's seven new routes launched in May and July to destinations in Italy, France, Germany and Northern Ireland had been a "tremendous success", Mr O'Leary said. The airline is in negotiations with more than 20 airports in Europe to add new routes.
But market conditions continue to be competitive, the airline said, with many low fares available in Europe.