EasyJet on steady course despite weather problems

Budget airline EasyJet kept a tight lid on costs this winter, allowing it to keep its losses within the expected range even as adverse weather stunted its growth plans.

The group said adverse weather during the first quarter of 2013 resulted in a higher than anticipated level of cancellations and as a consequence capacity growth was marginally lower than previous guidance at 3.3 per cent.

But growth in revenue per seat was better than expected at 8.5 per cent, driven in part by stronger than anticipated late bookings in the run up to Easter. It added that the cost per seat flown was up 3.5 per cent as expected.

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The company says the weakening of the pound against other European currencies will cost it up to £35 million in the first half of this financial year, with an additional £5m impact from changes in the fuel price.

However, the board still expects its pre-tax loss for the six months to 31 March to come in at between £60m and £65m when full figures are published. Like many airlines, EasyJet expects to make a loss in the winter half which it re-coups thanks to summer holiday bookings.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “EasyJet’s performance over the first half reflects the continuing successful delivery of our strategy of low fares, coupled with friendly service on Europe’s leading network.

“First half losses have been halved year on year through our disciplined approach to capacity deployment and a focus on cost management over winter. We have also benefited from rival airlines taking winter capacity out of the market, the earlier timing of Easter compared to last year and the poor weather across the UK and northern Europe which stimulated strong bookings in the last few weeks of the first half of the financial year.”