EasyJet’s profits and dividend taking off

BUDGET airline EasyJet landed a rise in profits yesterday but warned of turbulence ahead as it becomes harder to pass higher fuel prices on to passengers.

The group announced a maiden dividend of £195 million, which is about £5m more than previously expected amid pressure from founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou who, along with his family, is a major shareholder. Stelios is expected to pocket about £51m. Sources close to Stelios said he was still concerned about capital expenditure, which fell 1 per cent to £478m, adding he may pile more pressure on the airline’s board.

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The airline has been expanding its appeal to business customers, which tend to provide higher profits, by offering flexible fares.

A sharp rise in the number of business passengers helped the carrier to post a 31.5 per cent increase in underlying profits to £248m in the year to 30 September, which was at the upper end of analysts’ expectations.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said the airline would run a trial next year to see if passengers wanted to book specific seats on its aircraft, following a similar move from rival Ryanair.