RYANAIR has hailed growth in the last three of months of last year, swinging from a loss to a profit.

The company cited a strong Christmas and New Year for a six per cent rise in customer numbers to 36 million in the quarter to the end of December.

Revenue per passenger rose 13% and the Ireland-based company was able to rake in higher fares during the period that helped to move the airline from a €66 million (£56m) loss for the same period last year to an €88m (£74m) profit.

Overall revenue jumped 21% to €1.91 billion (£1.61bn) in the three months.

Fuel costs rose by 14% to €700m (£590m) because the airline paid more per unit and used more fuel.

READ MORE: Ryanair upgrades profit forecast by up to €900m

The company moved to temper its long-term expectations though as it is forced to keep running without the Boeing planes it was hoping would be delivered more than six months ago.

The carrier said its target to carry 200 million passengers a year would be pushed back a year or two until 2025 or 2026.

It comes as Boeing is working to ensure its 737 Max planes are able to take to the skies again.

The aircraft were grounded after hundreds of people were killed in two crashes.

Ryanair said in a statement to the Stock Exchange: “It is now likely that our first Max aircraft will not deliver until September or October 2020

“The requirement for Max simulator training will also slow down the delivery of backlogged aircraft and new deliveries.”

It said the late delivery of the “game-changer” planes, which carry more passengers and burn less fuel, will transform the business over the next decade, but that “due to these delivery delays, we won’t see any of these cost savings until late in the 2021 financial year”.

READ MORE: Ryanair reports 9% jump in traffic

It added that because of the delay it “had to close a number of loss-making winter bases leading to some crew redundancies in Spain, Germany and Sweden”, adding: “We have endeavoured to minimise job losses through base transfers and seasonal bases and continue to work with our people, their unions and our airports to finalise this process.”

It said that annual profit after tax was likely to fall in the middle of the already upgraded €950m to €1.05bn (£800m to £884m) target range.

Bookings for the fourth quarter are 1% ahead of the same period last year and are gathering slightly better fares.

Ryanair said full-year passenger growth is expected at 8%, to 154 million. The company added it is set to add more than 100 new routes in 2020, including from Edinburgh to Poland.

It also said its environmental policy commits it to be “plastic free in five years, cut noise emissions by up to 40% per seat and cut CO2 emissions by 10% by 2030”.

It said that “our industry must work harder to further cut these low emissions”.

Ryanair shares rose 6.7% to €15.85.