EasyJet expects to make a pretax loss of about £1.15bn this year but said its recovery was under way, with strong demand for winter sun breaks after the UK government relaxed travel restrictions.
The airline is adding 100,000 seats thanks to the popularity of destinations such as Egypt and Turkey and expects to fly up to 70% of 2019 levels in the three months to 31 December.
October half-term bookings have also been strong, particularly to the Canary Islands where easyJet has increased its capacity to 140% of 2019 levels. Bookings for the first half are double those of the same time last year.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said last week he wanted to scrap costly PCR tests for international travellers returning to England during the October half-term, in a boost to the travel sector. The government has also cut the number of countries on the red list, which have the toughest restrictions, to only seven.
EasyJet ramped up its flying to 58% of its 2019 capacity over the summer holiday season from 17% in the previous quarter. Its loss for the three months to 30 September, its fourth quarter, more than halved and easyJet expects to make a loss of between £1.14bn and £1.18bn for the year as a whole, meeting analysts’ forecasts.
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Johan Lundgren, the chief executive, said: “It is clear recovery is under way. Business travel is returning to easyJet with corporates and SMEs attracted by our value, network and approach to sustainability. We have seen city breaks beginning to return alongside growing demand for leisure travel from customers looking for flights and holidays to popular winter sun destinations including Egypt and Turkey.”
The airline recently rebuffed a takeover approach from its rival Wizz Air and shored up its finances with a £1.2bn fundraising, which allowed it to pay down debt to £900m from £2bn. It also managed to achieve £510m of savings over the year, of which almost half will be sustainable.
After being forced to ground fleets in the early stages of the pandemic, the aviation sector has struggled with a slow recovery in international travel amid the spread of the infectious Delta variant and travel restrictions, even as economies have bounced back.