Christmas carryings helped push Ryanair passenger numbers up by 20% in December to 9 million.

The rise from 7.5 million flown in December 2015 came as the budget carrier’s load factor increased by three percentage points to 94%.

Last month’s figures saw rolling annual carryings rise by 15% to 117 million.

Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs attributed the growth in December to lower fares available in the month and the airline’s ongoing ‘always getting better’ passenger service initiative.

“Customers can look forward to even lower fares for summer 2017,” he said.

Eastern and central European budget rival Wizz Air saw December carryings rise by 23% to 1.87 million with a load factor up by 2.1 percentage points to 87.3%.

This saw the airline fly 22.7 million passengers in the year to December 31, a rise of 18.8% over 2015’s levels.