Late rush to the sun boosts EasyJet’s trading

A SURGE in Easter bookings as Britons escaped the freezing weather helped budget airline easyJet to deliver more strong trading figures.

The Luton-based carrier said it expected to cut losses by almost half for the six months to March 31, despite more cancellations in the recent poor weather and the twin impact of rising fuel costs and the weaker pound.

Revenues per seat for the half year grew by around 8.5 per cent, in part due to stronger than anticipated late bookings in the run-up to Easter.

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The group’s loss for the seasonally quieter first half is now expected to be between £60m and £65m, compared with £112m a year ago and its January forecast of between £50m and £75m.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “EasyJet’s performance over the first half reflects the continuing successful delivery of our strategy of low fares, coupled with friendly service on Europe’s leading network.

“First half losses have been halved year on year through our disciplined approach to capacity deployment and a focus on cost management over winter.

“We have also benefited from rival airlines taking winter capacity out of the market, the earlier timing of Easter compared to last year and the poor weather across the UK and northern Europe which stimulated strong bookings in the last few weeks of the first half of the financial year.”

The company, which joined the FTSE 100 Index last month after its share price more than doubled in two years, has benefited from the launch of allocated seating, which helped it attract 10m business passengers last year.

It has consistently beaten City expectations for profits but a long-running war of words with founder and major shareholder Sir Stelios Haji Ioannou has overshadowed some of its recent success.

The company operates on more than 600 routes across 30 countries with a fleet of more than 200 aircraft.

The company employs 8,000 people including 2,000 pilots and 4,500 cabin crew. Last year it flew more than 59 million passengers.

Analysts at Liberum Capital said: “We remain buyers and raise share price target to 1246p.”

Shares closed last night at INSERT HERE, giving the company a market capitalisation of INSERT HERE.