EasyJet posted strong growth in quarterly revenue, helped by an uplift in the number of business travellers flying with the British budget airline and fuller planes.
Europe’s second-largest budget airline after Ryanair said on Thursday revenue jumped 9.2 per cent to £833 million ($1.2 billion) in the three months to the end of December, as passenger numbers rose 6.2 per cent to 13.7 million.
The Luton, southern England-based company said costs per seat, excluding fuel, rose by 0.5 per cent during the first quarter, and it expected its seasonal first-half loss to narrow considerably. The airline makes its profits in the second half, which includes the busy summer holiday period.
“With around 80 per cent of first half seats now booked, easyJet expects to contain first half loss before tax to between 50 million and £75 million ... this assumes a normal level of disruption in the second quarter,” said easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall.
Profits have doubled since McCall took over as chief executive in July 2010.
Last year, the company posted a first half loss of £112 million. This year EasyJet is expected to report a pretax loss of £109 million for the six months to the end of March, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The airline’s load factor — a measure of how full its planes are - rose 1 percentage point to 88.6 per cent during the quarter.
The company has added flights between top business destinations in recent months and introduced flexible tickets and allocated seating in an attempt to steal corporate customers from legacy carriers such as IAG’s British Airways.
The airline, which will start services between London, Manchester and Moscow later this year, said it was now carrying some 10 million business passengers annually, up from around 9 million a year ago.
A spokesman for the airline said demand for flights between top business destinations such as London, Paris, Geneva, Rome and Milan had been especially strong during the quarter.
The carrier expects fuel costs to be between 5 and 25 million pounds higher in 2012/13 than the previous year.