Easyjet traffic hit by air traffic controller strikes and terrorism

 
Oliver Gill
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Having a proportionately high number of French destinations led to a stormy March for Easyjet (Source: Getty)

Easyjet is expected to return to the red for the first half of the year after French air traffic controller strikes and the terrorist attacks in Belgium hurt traffic volumes in March.

The Luton-based budget airline said 611 flights were cancelled last month, blaming the majority on strike action in France.

Load factors (the proportion of seats taken up per flight) were down from 92.6 per cent to 91.3 per cent. And although overall passenger numbers were up 4.3 per cent compared to March 2015, this growth was well behind the 28 per cent increase outlined by Ryanair over the same period.

Stephen Furlong, transport and logistics analyst at Davy Wealth Management, said: “We do not believe that the company will be profitable in the first half (September to March).”

Easyjet appeared to have turned a corner for the first half of the previous year, generating profit before tax of £7m during a period which was historically loss-making.

“The largest number of cancellations we have seen reported so far is Ryanair at around 500. Given that Easyjet is two-thirds the size of Ryanair, then it is [equivalent] to being almost double,” said Furlong and pointed to the fact that Easyjet have a greater exposure to French destinations than its competitors.

Robin Byde of Cantor Fitzgerald was more conciliatory: “A lot happened in March. There was both the terrorist attacks and the French air traffic controllers strike.

“There is a lot of news flow today and it reads negatively, but you can’t read too much into it. Given the circumstances negative headlines are understandable. But overall the business model is resilient. It's a temporary issue and bookings will pick up,” he said.

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