The shares of Ryanair (LSE: RYA) (NASDAQ: RYAAY.US) dropped EUR0.10, or 2%, to EUR5.40 during early London trade this morning despite the Irish airline revealing its third-quarter profits had soared 21%.

Ryanair, which claims to be "Europe's only ultra-low cost carrier", said earnings had increased from EUR14.9m to EUR18.1m during October, November and December. Passenger numbers gaining 3% to 17.3 million and average fare prices rising 8% helped revenues advance 15% to EUR969m.

The third-quarter performance ensured Ryanair's nine-month results showed turnover up 15% to EUR4,075m and earnings up 10% to EUR614m.

Ryanair's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, said:

"Our Q3 profit of EUR18m was ahead of expectations due to strong pre-Christmas bookings at higher yields. The 8% rise in average fares reflects our improved customer service, record punctuality and the successful roll out of our reserved seating service."

Ryanair claimed this morning that its "industry-leading" customer service ensured 93% of its flights arrive on time, less than four flights in every 1,000 are cancelled and less than one per 3,000 passengers report a lost bag.

The airline also said a survey of 10,000 passengers during December indicated 83% being "satisfied or very satisfied" with their flight and 95% saying "Ryanair provides excellent value for money".

Ryanair's happy passengers prompted the airline to lift its full-year earnings guidance from EUR505m to EUR540m, equivalent to about EUR0.37 per share. The revised projection now values the airline at 14.6 times current-year profits.

Of course, whether Ryanair's positive third quarter, its current EUR8bn market cap and "industry-leading" customer service now combine to make the share a buy is up to you.

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