Lufthansa claimed the title as Europe’s largest airline group in 2017 after carrying 130 million passengers against Ryanair’s 129 million.

The annual total eclipsed Ryanair as the Irish budget carrier cut 20,000 flights due to an error in pilot rostering.

The German owner of Lufthansa, Eurowings, Brussels Airlines, Swiss and Austrian Airlines, operated 1.1 million flights with a record load factor of 80.9%.

The figures emerged as the company reported a 19.9% year-on-year increase in December carryings to 9.3 million passengers.

Lufthansa Airlines grew passenger numbers by 7.3% last month to 4.7 million to give an annual total of 66.2 million, up 6.1% over 2016.

Swiss and Austrian Airlines flew 31.2 million passengers in the 12 months while Eurowings and Brussels Airlines handled 77% more year-on-year at 32.6 million.

The group plans to hire 8,000 new staff in 2018, the majority being cabin crew, with Lufthansa alone taking on 2,500 flight attendants at its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.