EasyJet on Course for 50 Percent Profit Rise as Passenger Numbers Soar

Budget airline EasyJet is on course for a full-year profit haul of almost GBP 200 million, 50 percent up on the previous year, following strong passenger growth and lower operating costs.

The carrier, which serves more than 300 routes to 83 airports, will benefit from a one-off gain of GBP 11m after investing in the UK's air traffic control company.

Passenger numbers on EasyJet's distinctive white and orange planes rose 14.2 percent last month, taking the total over the past year to 37.2 million.

Although revenue per seat fell 6.8 percent in the second half, costs - excluding fuel - were cut by 10 per cent.

The airline said it expected profit growth for its financial year to the end of September to be towards the top end of its earlier guidance of between 40 percent and 50 percent.

Numis securities said it expected EasyJet to book pre-tax profits of GBP 190.8m, which would be an increase of 47 per cent. It said the carrier had done well to keep overheads down, but warned fuel costs continued to rise, with jet kerosene spot prices now 22 per cent above where they were a year ago in sterling terms.

Shares in EasyJet, whose Scottish routes centre on Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, climbed 24p, or 4.4 percent, to 571.5p. Analysts noted that the group was set to benefit from its recent move to start charging for baggage.

EasyJet chief executive Andy Harrison said: "We are pleased with our performance over the last financial year, having achieved significant improvement in margins despite the doubling of [air passenger duty] in the UK and record fuel prices."

The airline is looking to add 15 per cent capacity in the current financial year, with growth likely to continue to focus on southern Europe.

EasyJet's load factor, a measure of how well it fills its seats, dipped 1.3 percentage points to 85.2 per cent in September, while the rolling 12 month figure was down by just one point.

"During the winter we expect total revenue per seat, including revenues from bag charging, to be broadly in line with last year," the group said.

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