Air France strike boosts Easyjet

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A strike by pilots at Air France last month boosted easyJet sales by £5m and helped lift full-year profit expectations, the low-cost airline said today.

The group said it expects pre-tax earnings for the 12 months to September 30 of between £575m and £580m - with the higher figure representing a possible increase of 21 per cent on last year.

It is an improvement on previous guidance of £545m to £570m for 2013/14. Full-year results will be published on November 18. Shares rose five per cent.

Chief executive Carolyn Call said: “easyJet has continued to execute its strategy, delivering another strong performance in the second half of the year. This has enabled easyJet to deliver record profits for the fourth year in a row.

“This will also lead to our largest ever ordinary dividend payment as we are also proposing to increase the proportion of our profits after tax paid in dividends from 33% to 40%.”

The group said: “The impact of the Air France pilots’ strike in September is expected to increase easyJet’s revenue by around £5 million as Air France passengers switched to easyJet.”

Pilots at the French carrier went on strike for two weeks last month, leading to half of all flights being cancelled, in a dispute over jobs and operations being moved to low-cost carrier Transavia.

Easyjet said the sales boost this provided “combined with the strong finish to the year” had lifted its pre-tax profit expectations.

Passenger numbers for September were up 7.5% year on year to 6.14 million.

As well as the Air France strike, easyJet said the second half of the financial year was boosted by a £2 million benefit from favourable fuel costs - against a previous expectation of a £5 million hit.

Revenue per seat for the period was expected to rise by 2% as against an earlier outlook of 1%.

The Luton-based carrier said more than a quarter of seats for the first half of the next financial year had now been sold, slightly ahead of the prior year.

Fuel costs for 2014/15 are expected to be around £50 million lower though the group expects exchange rate movements to result in a £20 million hit.

Last month the group stepped up its expansion by taking up an option with Airbus for the addition of another 27 planes to its fleet, giving it 304 aircraft by 2019.