Ryanair passenger numbers dropped by 50,000 in January as it grounded 80 aircraft after the Christmas peak flying period.

Numbers were down by 1% on the same month last year although the load factor remained constant at 71%.

The budget airline carried 79.6 million passengers in the year to January at a load factor of 82%.

A spokesman said: “As previously guided, Ryanair’s January 2013 traffic fell by 50,000 (-1%) over January 2012 as we grounded up to 80 aircraft following the busy Christmas season.

“However, Ryanair enjoyed another record 12-month period to January 2013, with almost 80 million passengers choosing one of our ultra-low fares since January 2012.”

Budget rival easyJet, meanwhile, increased its passenger carryings by 4% in January to more than 3.8 million.

The airline achieved an improved load factor of 84.4% against 82% in January 2012. Carryings for the 12 months to January increased by 7% to 59.3 million.

Aer Lingus also reported January figures today, recording a 3.6% rise in the number of passenger carried to 638,000 over the same month last year. Short-haul numbers, including Aer Lingus Regional, were up by 2.8% to 583,000 while long haul passengers grew by 12.2% to 55,000.

The Irish airline’s short-haul load factor was up by 0.2 points to 62.7% while long-haul was up by 6.4 points to 68.2% as capacity increased by 2.9% year on year.