LAST week, EasyJet revealed that it had finished testing its volcano-busting aircraft sensors, allowing planes to dodge ash clouds and keep flying after eruptions like the one that crippled European airspace in 2010.
The experiment, which required EasyJet and its partners to throw a metric tonne of ash into the sky before flying four planes through it, is a neat demonstration of how the airline deals with a possible crisis.
Well before its budget rivals, EasyJet was offering hard-pressed business customers reserved seats and tickets through corporate travel agents. Now selling to everyone from Moscow businessmen to the Houses of Parliament’s travel bookers, EasyJet’s annual revenues per seat will be up by more than six per cent while traffic is four per cent up on last year. It also flagged a 10 per cent jump in non-seat revenues earlier in the year, helped by tie-ups with hotels and car hire firms attractive to busy corporate passengers.
Shares have fallen 15 per cent since a peak of 1,448p in August, as investors fret that consumer spending in Europe could falter and flatten sales – a fear already being realised at rival Ryanair.
However, EasyJet’s early move to attract travellers trading down from flag carriers, and a dividend policy that has seen payouts increase since 2011, has kept most analysts on a “buy” rating.
By the time EasyJet has fitted its planes with its new volcano sensors, and it starts to use more cost-effective Airbus A320neos in 2015, the stock will have flown past previous highs – Icelandic-sized ash cloud disasters permitting.