Belfast Telegraph

A take-off in sun-seekers sees easyJet profits soar to £660m

By Roger Baird

Budget airline easyJet raised its annual profits outlook after being buoyed by sun-seekers jetting off on beach holidays.

The Luton-based carrier, which flies to nearly 30 destinations from Belfast, said it flew 19.1 million passengers in the three months to the end of June, up 6.2%.

The take-off in numbers was driven by UK holidaymakers flying to popular beach routes such as Alicante, Malaga and Faro.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said with over 77% of its seats now booked for the second half of the year, it expects to hit full-year pre-tax profits of between £620m and £660m, compared with £581m a year ago. The City had previously forecast a pre-tax profit of £638m this year.

Shares took off, rising by more than 4% on the FTSE 100 Index after the profits cheer and as third-quarter sales were better than expected.

The airline's load factor - a key industry measure of how full its planes are - rose 1.3% to 91.7%.

The carrier's strong performance came despite having to cancel 1,463 flights during the period, compared with 648 a year earlier, because of French air traffic control strikes at Easter and a fire at Rome's main airport, Flumicino.

This saw sales fall 1% to £1.2bn during the third quarter, and pushed its revenue per seat down 5.4% to £59.08 per seat, although the drop was better than feared.

Ms McCall said: "Our third-quarter performance shows that easyJet's strategy continues to deliver, in particular with good performance in the United Kingdom and beach routes across Europe."

The airline said the tragic Tunisian beach shootings by terrorists last month, which killed 38, including 30 Britons, had a minor effect on the firm's bottom line.

It had only begun twice-a-week flights to the country in June, and has since suspended them after Government advice. It said it will keep the Tunisian service under review.

The airline said it delivered £7m of savings in the quarter, making £28m in the year so far. It added it was on track to make savings at the top end of the £30m to £40m range it has previously given.

Brokers at Cantor Fitzgerald said the performance was "driven by good trading in the UK and beach routes across Europe in May and June, and successful implementation of various revenue management initiatives".

EasyJet last month announced two new routes from Belfast International to ski gateway Lyon in France and sun destination Arrecife, Lanzarote.

The new year-round Arrecife route starts in November and operates on Tuesdays and Saturdays on an A320 aircraft.

EasyJet said it expected to carry around 11,000 passengers on the new route in the first winter of operation.

Lyon will be a winter service operating once a week on Saturdays from December to March.

Belfast Telegraph