EasyJet profits take off to record £317m

Profits at low-cost airline easyJet climbed to a record £317m yesterday as higher sales offset a further £182m surge in fuel costs.

The group achieved the 28 per cent rise in profits for the year to September 30 after it carried 58 million passengers – an improvement of 7 per cent on a year earlier – and benefited from continuing cost-cutting efforts.

Europe’s fourth biggest short-haul carrier received a late summer boost as holidaymakers delayed their holiday plans until after the Olympics Games.

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The group saw revenues per seat rise by 7.5 per cent to £58.51 with currency movements stripped out, helped by the success of its ‘Europe by easyJet’ adverts – its first television ad campaign featuring images from award-winning photographer Elaine Constantine and music by indie band The Wombats.

It has already sold around 45 per cent of winter seats and expects half-year revenues per seat to rise by “low to mid-single digits”, with forward bookings for the first half holding firm on a year earlier.

The group added that it plans to increase flight capacity by around 3.5 per cent in the first half as it continues to pick up business while some embattled competitors scale back services.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “These results demonstrate that easyJet is a structural winner in the European short-haul market against both legacy and low-cost competition.”

EasyJet also benefited from less disruption from weather and strike action than in previous years, with fewer than 1,000 flights cancelled against more than 4,000 the year before.

Shares in the group rose 3 per cent after the company doubled its annual dividend payout to shareholders to 21.5p a share.