EasyJet sees passenger numbers soar in May

Budget carrier EasyJet shrugged off fears sparked by recent terror attacks and air traffic control strikes as passenger numbers jumped last month.

EasyJet's passenger numbers soared last month. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Luton-based airline carried 6.9 million travellers in May, 5.7 per cent more than a year earlier, despite last month’s EgyptAir crash and French air traffic control strikes which contributed to 173 cancellations in the period.

However, the company said its load factor – a measure of how full its aircraft were – dipped slightly, by 0.1 percentage to 91.5% compared with 12 months ago.

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Last month EasyJet posted half-year results that showed it had swung into the red after recent terror attacks saw some passengers stay away and rivals stepped up the pace of competition.

It posted losses of £24 million for the six months to the end of March against profits of £7m a year earlier, but said its bottom line was hit by a £33m foreign exchange rate impact.

The company’s sales suffered in the wake of November’s deadly attacks in Paris, which knocked 2.7 per cent off revenues per seat in the first half, while the suspension of flights on routes to the popular Egyptian tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh following the Russian airliner crash in October reduced revenues by another 1.3 per cent.

The group is also facing a summer price war as competition from rivals such as Ryanair hots up, with the sharp drops in the price of oil seeing a surge in low-cost travel as fares look set to fall.

Ryanair said in May that it plans to slash fares by an average of 7 per cent this year as the industry struggles with overcapacity and fears of weaker demand caused by the recent spate of terror attacks.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “If other airlines want to compete with us on price, then we will lower our prices again. If there is a fare war in Europe, then Ryanair will be the winner.”