Europe's largest discount airline Ryanair Holdings PLC carried 21 percent more passengers in July

Europe's largest discount airline Ryanair Holdings PLC announced Friday passenger traffic increased by 21 percent.

The airline carried more than 4.7 million passengers in July compared with about 3.9 million in July 2006, the company said in a statement. For the 12 months to July 31, the company said carried nearly 45.3 million passengers.

The July load factor - or the number of passengers carried as a proportion of the number of seats available - was flat at 90 percent.

Ryanair shares rose 0.4 percent to EUR 5.43 (US$7.42) in Dublin.

The airline, founded in 1985, employs 4,800 people at 20 bases, and operates more than 500 routes. It sells tickets mainly via the Internet, does not permit passengers to transfer baggage, and charges extra for all services, including water and baggage check-in.

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary is challenging European competition authorities' refusal to authorize an attempted Ryanair takeover of its major Irish competitor, Aer Lingus.

EU officials ruled in June that Ryanair's hostile bid - which is opposed by more than 40 percent of shareholder - was likely to produce an Irish monopoly. Ryanair pledged to sue to overturn the ruling, but its case isn't expected to be heard until 2009 at the earliest.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova