Ryanair has posted a third quarter loss of 102 million euros, blaming the increase in fuel costs.

This compares with a 35 million euros profit over the same period last year.

It said its third quarter fuel costs had risen by 71% to 328 million euros during the period, and accounted for 47% of operating costs.

However, the low-cost carrier is confident it will still make a profit of around 50 to 80 million euros, thanks to falling fuel prices.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “The general economic environment remains extremely difficult, as the recession saps consumer confidence, but this is proving to be good for Ryanair’s traffic growth, as more and more passengers switch to Ryanair’s lowest fare lowest cost model.

“The longer and deeper this recession, the better it will be for the lowest cost producers in every sector. Like Lidl, Aldi, Ikea and McDonalds, Ryanair, is the lowest cost provider – by a distance – in the European airline industry, and we are poised for substantial traffic and profit growth in the coming year as the recession forces millions of passengers to focus on price.”

O’Leary also said he was “disappointed” Ryanair’s offer for Aer Lingus had been rejected by the government, and said the airline would not be making any further offers.