easyJet posts first winter profit in more than a decade

easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall.

easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall. - Credit: PA

Budget airline easyJet today reported a first-half profit for the first time in more than a decade after it flew more passengers and enjoyed a strong finish to the ski season.

The group swung to a £7million pre-tax profit in the six months to March 31, from a £53m loss a year earlier, having flown 28.9million passengers, a 3.8% increase on the same period 12 months ago.

It had recently forecast it would make somewhere between a loss of £5m and profit of £10m 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 £1m profit.

The airline said its cost per seat fell 1.4% 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 0.7% to 89.7% against the same period a year ago.

However, easyJet said that while it expected its fuel bill for the full year to be between £95m to £120m lower, the strength of the pound was expected to cost it around £20m over the full year.

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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 £25m.

In the UK easyJet boosted its capacity by 20% at London Gatwick after buying take-off and landing slots from rival Flybe and using larger aircraft at the airport. It grew its total UK capacity by 3% 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 6.2% 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 17% to £680m.