Ryanair breaks its September traffic record

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FILE PHOTO: Passengers alight from a Ryanair aircraft at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair flew 15.9 million passengers in September, its third busiest month ever and up 13% on pre-COVID levels as the low-cost carrier consolidates its position as Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers.

The jump in traffic meant Ryanair also flew more passengers in September than in any of its busiest summer months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Until this year, its busiest month was August 2019 when it carried 14.9 million passengers.

The Irish airline, which unlike many airlines kept its pilots and crew up-to-date with their flying hours during the pandemic to take advantage of the swift rebound this year, flew a record 16.9 million passengers in August 2022.

The average proportion of empty seats per flight rose last month to 6%, up from 4% in August and 3% in September 2019.

Ryanair expects to fly 166.5 million passengers in the year to the end of March, significantly ahead of its previous annual record of 149 million reached before the pandemic brought the travel industry to a standstill.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by David Evans)