Wizz Air winter carryings rose by almost a quarter to 7.1 million to help profits grow by 3.6%.

The Hungarian budget carrier increased its annual growth target to 25% after a record first nine months of the financial year.

The eastern and central European airline achieved a profit of €14 million in the three months to December 31 as total revenue rose by 24% to €422.9 million.

Ticket revenues grew by 26.1% to €241.7 million while ancillaries were up by 21.3% to €181.1 million.

This came as the Wizz Air fleet was expanded to 88 aircraft and the airline ordered an additional 146 new generation Airbus A320s.

The airline announced plans in the quarter to base seven aircraft at Luton airport this year after acquiring additional slots following the collapse of Monarch.

The carrier also applied for a UK air operator’s certificate “further demonstrating Wizz Air’s commitment to Europe’s largest aviation market”.

Chief executive Josef Varadi said this morning: “I’m pleased to report that Wizz Air has once again delivered a successful third quarter, with passenger numbers increasing by 24% year-on-year to a record of 7.1 million for the quarter and load factors reaching 89.4%.

“Our strong performance over the first nine months of the financial year and an encouraging upcoming Easter has enabled us to increase fourth quarter growth and deliver 25% more passengers to nearly 30 million passengers for the full financial year.

“The third quarter also saw some exciting new developments and investments for Wizz Air’s business, as our top priorities remain profitable growth and driving our ultra-low cost base even lower.

“We increased our market share in London-Luton to over 37% through the acquisition of a number of overnight stands and slots; the new Wizz Pilot Academy welcomed its first intake of 20 cadets, with over 100 cadets being recruited over the next 12 months; and we also signed our largest ever aircraft order with Airbus for an additional 146 Airbus A320 family Neo aircraft, the terms of which were approved yesterday by our shareholders.

“We now have 256 Airbus A320 family Neo aircraft on order and these ultra-efficient, next-step technology aircraft will underpin our growth plans for the next decade as we continue with our mission to be the undisputed cost leader among European airlines.”