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Ryanair passenger numbers take off

No-frills airline Ryanair has claimed to be the first European carrier to fly eight million passengers in one month.

The budget carrier said its passenger figures grew 6pc in the 12 months to July, hitting 8.1 million that month.

However, the airline's chief Micheal O'Leary again hit out at the Irish Government's three euro air travel tax, and charges imposed by semi-state company the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

"Why are the Irish airports and Irish tourism losing out on this traffic growth. It's not the recession, because Ryanair's growth proves that you can continue to grow strongly during recession," Mr O'Leary said.

"The reason that Ireland and Irish tourism is suffering such appalling declines is because of the travel tax and the DAA's high fees, and the new (Irish) Government has failed thus far to address these issues."

Mr O'Leary predicted Dublin would slip from the airline's second largest base in Europe, after London Stansted, to fifth place, blaming a 40pc hike in charges by the DAA.

The Irish Government has committed to retaining the three euro travel tax on each departing passenger until next spring, claiming airlines had not given solid commitments on capacity or inbound routes to scrap the levy.

Ryanair accused the Department of Transport of turning down its offer of promising to increase passenger numbers by five million over the next five years, based on Transport Minister Leo Varadkar's pledge to retain the tax.

Mr O'Leary reiterated the airline's call for the Irish Government to scrap the travel tax and break up the DAA, claiming Ryanair was scaling back in Ireland.

He said the airline's passenger numbers at the three main DAA-operated airports had fallen by four million since 2008.

DAA claimed it had been independently verified that charges at Dublin Airport were not high.

A spokesman said a study had shown charges were 25pc lower than those at comparable European airports.

He also claimed Ryanair's estimated figure for DAA passenger numbers this year were "completely bogus", stating numbers at Dublin Airport were up 6pc in the first six months.

Mr O`Leary again criticised plans to develop Dublin's Metro North project, a public transport system running between central Dublin and the airport.

© Press Association