However, the controversial budget airline said it had expected numbers to be down 10 per cent, meaning that the traffic slump has not been as bad as expected.

Head of communications Stephen McNamara said traffic for winter 2011/2012 would be down 4 per cent overall. The figures follow the airline’s decision to ground 80 aircraft owing to higher fuel prices.

However, even though passenger numbers are forecast to be lower until the end of March, the Irish airline last month said it expected to make a net profit of of €440m (£378m), compared with a previous estimate of about €400m.

Part of this may be attributed to Ryanair’s 13 per cent fare hike in the face of rising fuel costs.

It may also have something to do with the carrier’s inventive methods as regards avoiding bills for repairs (i.e, applying sticky tape), and raking in piles of cash from keeping an eagle eye on oversize baggage.