Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary’s attempt to woo back customers with lower fares and a new touchy-feely image appears to be paying off, after the airline reported a record number of passengers in December.

Some five million people flew with Ryanair last month, a 4pc increase on the 4.8m passengers carried in December 2012, the airline reported on Thursday. The December surge means Ryanair carried a total of 81.4m passengers in 2013, up from 79.6m in 2012.

Ryanair signalled at the end of last year that it was preparing to wage a price war after it was forced to issue two shock profit warnings. In June, just a few months prior to the downgrades in profit forecasts, Ryanair unveiled aggressive forecasts to reach 110m passengers by March 2019 .

The controversial airline also introduced a number of customer service improvements in November and December after Mr O’Leary admitted some of its policies did “unnecessarily p— people off” .

Improvements include allowing passengers to take a second small bag on board aircraft and cutting fees for customers who don’t check in online before turning up at the airport.

Ryanair spokesman, Robin Kiely, said: “Ryanair carried a new record of over 5m customers in December, thanks to the success of our lower fares, easier to use website and customer service improvements.

“Further service improvements are due to be rolled out over the coming weeks and months as Ryanair continues to lower prices and improve our industry leading customer service in 2014.”

Investec analyst, James Hollins, called Ryanair’s performance in December “sound” although he questioned whether the customer service improvements had much of an impact.

“More likely, the aggressive pricing undertaken…has been the key driver of the passenger increase,” Mr Hollins said.

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Photo Credit: Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary gestures during a signing ceremony at the 50th Paris Air Show, at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 19, 2013. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters