EasyJet First Half Improves as Britons Flee Cold Winter


Low-cost airline easyJet roughly halved its losses in the first half, helped by Easter falling earlier than a year ago and strong bookings from customers wanting to escape recent cold weather in Britain and Northern Europe.

Europe's second-largest budget airline behind Ryanair reported a pretax loss of 61 million pounds ($93 million) for the six months to the end of March, down from 112 million pounds a year ago.

The loss was at the lower end of its guidance of 60-65 million pounds and better than an analyst forecast for a loss of 64.5 million pounds, according to a Thomson Reuters analyst poll.

EasyJet is still in talks with Europe's Airbus and United States rival Boeing about making a significant expansion of its fleet but has yet to make a final decision.

It is keen to buy new, more fuel-efficient jets but since the new models it is looking at, Boeing's 737 Max and Airbus' 320 Neo, are not available until 2017 and 2018, the airline is also negotiating a bridging deal.

It said it was in the final stages of the commercial evaluation of the next generation of short-haul engine technology and in the event that its board backs an order it will make a proposal to shareholders that will cover both the next generation of deliveries, which are likely to be after 2017, and a plan for the bridging period from 2015 to 2017.

EasyJet said its total revenues grew 9.3 percent to 1.6 billion pounds, while revenue per seat grew 8.6 percent, better than the 6 to 8 percent it previously expected, driven by strong bookings in the run up to Easter.

Capacity on its flights rose by 3.3 percent, slightly short of its 3.5 percent forecast, it said, due to the bad weather causing a higher-than-expected number of cancellations.

"EasyJet expects to deliver improved returns and profitability for the year ending Sept. 30 2013," said easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall.

Since McCall took over in 2010 easyJet has added flights between top business destinations, introduced flexible tickets and offered allocated seating in an attempt to steal corporate customers from airlines such as IAG's <ICAG.L> British Airways.

Shares in easyJet, which have risen 50 percent so far this year, closed at 1,130 pence on Tuesday, valuing the group at around 4.5 billion pounds.