Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's most popular airline easyJet halves winter loss

By Clare Weir

EASYJET, Northern Ireland's most popular airline, has halved its winter losses in the first part of 2013.

The Luton-based budget carrier removed 18 flights from airports across the UK, cut aircraft at Liverpool and Luton but increased its presence at Edinburgh, Gatwick, Manchester and Southend.

It carried 26.6m people in the six months to the end of March, a rise of 5.3% on a year earlier as revenues surged 9.3% to £1.6bn and losses narrowed 46% to £61m and load factor increased by 1.7% to 88.6%.

Total revenue per seat increased by 8.6% year on year to £53.39 as the half year benefited from an early Easter, but disruption from heavy snowfall, de-icing planes and higher airport charges meant costs per seat, excluding fuel, rose 3.4% to £38.89.

The airline's full year profits for 2012 were £317m.

Paul Simmons, easyJet's UK director, told the Belfast Telegraph that the seasonal losses had been halved as a result of 'judicious use of capital'.

"We're careful with where we fly, we cut out things that are not working for us and we remove unprofitable routes early," he said.

"Small decisions like where and when we fly, the time of the day or day of the week, looking at what gets us the best return, make big differences. Allocated seating has been another improvement, certainly in better customer satisfaction."

Mr Simmons said that easyJet is committed to Belfast International Airport, which received bad news this week when withdrew a Leeds Bradford flight just a month after expressing concerns about the safety of the runway at Aldergrove.

"Safety is our number one priority, it's not just something we say," he said. "When concerns were first expressed in Belfast we had our own safety people all over the issue and we carried on flying because we were completely sure that there were no issues.

"Around four years ago there was a similar issue around the runway at Bristol and at the time we were the airline and we were the ones who raised the issue. We've led tough decisions in the past so there was no way we would continue to fly from Belfast if we were not totally happy."

Belfast Telegraph