Ryanair’s (RYA.L) passenger numbers climbed to 5.3 million in June as a successful vaccine rollout programme in Europe boosted travel confidence in the bloc.
The airline said it operated 38,000 flights last month, with the number of passengers doubling compared with May, when only 1.8 million travellers took to the skies. In the same month a year ago Ryanair carried only 400,000 passengers as national lockdowns and travel restrictions took their toll on the aviation industry.
It came as budget rival Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) also revealed that 1.55 million passengers travelled in June, a huge increase compared to the same period the year before when only 500,000 people flew with the company.
The Hungarian airline is set to open a sixth Italian base in Naples, which offers passengers 18 new international and domestic routes.
Earlier this month Wizz Air chief executive Jozsef Varadi said: “We are ramping up. We are seeing a less constrained environment going into peak summer and quite likely we’re going to be above our 2019 capacity in a month or two from now."
Wizz Air stock was trading flat in London while Ryanair had pushed 1% higher on the news.
Ryanair, which is Europe’s largest airline, revealed in May that it swung to an €815m (£701m, $965m) loss in the 12 months to 31 March, compared with a €1bn profit a year earlier. It was the company's biggest ever annual loss in its 35-year history.
It saw passenger numbers plunge 81% in what was its “most challenging” year to date.
The airline also launched legal action last month, suing the UK government over its traffic light travel system. TUI (TUI.L), Virgin Atlantic, British Airways owner IAG (IAG.L) and the Manchester Airport Group also followed suit.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O' Leary described the government's international travel policy as a "shambles".
"The green list is non-existent because countries such as Malta and Portugal, with lower COVID case numbers than the UK and rapidly rising vaccination rates, remain on amber,” he said.
"Meanwhile, UK citizens, almost 80% of whom will be vaccinated by the end of June, continue to face COVID restrictions on travel to and from the European Union, despite the fact that the majority of the European Union citizens will also be vaccinated by the end of June."
Currently, all travellers returning from amber locations must take a pre-departure coronavirus test, two post-arrival PCR tests costing around £100, and self-isolate for 10 days.
O’Leary added: “It is time for Boris Johnson to end his gross mismanagement of COVID and the recovery from COVID, and take advantage of the UK's successful vaccine programme.”
British pilots, cabin crew, travel agents and other workers in the industry also urged politicians to reopen foreign routes, protesting outside the Houses of Parliament in London, as well as in Holyrood and Stormont.
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