EasyJet narrows winter losses

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Budget airline EasyJet narrowed its half-year losses after the cold weather tempted Briton’s into booking holidays to sunnier climes.

Losses were reduced by 46 per cent in the six months to 31 March to £61 million on the back of a 9.3 per cent rise in revenues to £1.6 billion.

Passenger numbers rose by 5.3 per cent to 26.6 million.

While the tough consumer climate and rising costs forced competitors to cut their capacity by 2.8 per cent during the winter, EasyJet said its 3.3 per cent capacity increase to 30 million seats helped it to narrowly beat City forecasts.

The carrier expects more growth in its second half – when airlines traditionally make the bulk of their profits from holidaymakers.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said the airline delivered a strong first-half performance, demonstrating the company’s “structural advantage” in the European short-haul market against both legacy and low-cost competition.

She added: “The outlook for the second half of the financial year combined with the strong reduction in first half losses means that EasyJet expects to deliver improved returns and profitability for the year ending 30 September.”

EasyJet expects to grew revenues per seat by 4 per cent in the six months to 30 September.

As the tough market forced competitors to withdraw about two million seats over the winter, EasyJet shifted capacity to routes which drove the highest returns.

It increased its presence at Edinburgh, Gatwick, Manchester and Southend while cutting aircraft at Liverpool and Luton.

The Luton-based operator earned 8.6 per cent more per seat at £53.39, and was also helped by the early timing of Easter.

Its load factor – a measure of how full its planes are – increased by 1.7 per cent to 88.6 per cent.

However, disruption from heavy snowfall, de-icing planes and higher airport charges meant costs per seat excluding fuel rose 3.4 per cent to £38.89.

The company, which joined the FTSE 100 index earlier this year, has seen its share price more than double over the past year.

It has consistently beaten City expectations for profits but a long-running war of words with founder and major shareholder Sir Stelios Haji Ioannou has overshadowed some of its recent success.