Winter profit boost for Easyjet

Easyjet. Photo: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

Easyjet. Photo: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Budget carrier easyJet turned in its first half-year profit in more than a decade as it flew more passengers and enjoyed a strong finish to the ski season.

The group swung to a £7 million pre-tax profit in the six months to March 31, from a £53 million loss a year ago, as it flew 28.9 million passengers, a 3.8pc rise on the period.

It had recently forecast it would make somewhere between a loss of £5 million and profit of £10 million in the winter period when airlines traditionally report a shortfall.

The last time the airline was in the black in its winter season was in 2002, when it posted a £1 million profit.

The airline said its cost per seat fell 1.4pc to £38.66, due to a decline in oil prices and helped by strong October trading and the timing of Easter.

The firm's load factor - a key industry measure which indicates how full its planes are - improved 0.7pc to 89.7pc against the same period a year ago.

EasyJet, which has a fleet of 230 planes, said that because of lower oil prices it expects its fuel bill to be between £95 million to £120 million lower than last year.

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But it added that the strong pound has cost it around £40 million during the period, and expects it to cost the airline around £20 million over the full year.

The carrier added that it suffered more than 600 cancellations last month, the majority of which were caused by French air traffic control strikes. It said this disruption would affect its full-year profit by around £25 million.

In the UK easyJet boosted its capacity by 20pc at London Gatwick after buying take-off and landing slots from rival Flybe and using larger aircraft at the airport.

It grew its UK capacity by 3pc in the period and launched 12 new routes, including Edinburgh to Funchal and Gatwick to Stuttgart.

The airline said it would grow its overall network capacity by a further 6.2pc in the summer, and expected to offer its customers even better-value fares this summer while continuing to grow revenue and profit.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said the carrier delivered a 'record performance' in the first half of the year.

She said: 'As we enter the important summer season, forward bookings are in line with last year and, as we predicted, passengers are benefiting as fares fall to reflect a more competitive operating environment and lower fuel costs.'

Brokers expect easyJet to turn in a annual pre-tax profit up around 17pc to £680 million.

Shares dropped 8pc in a depressed market.