EasyJet hit by £75m ash cloud losses

EASYJET swallowed up to £75m in losses during the six-day volcanic ash crisis, forcing the budget airline to revise its yearly profit forecasts.

The Luton-based carrier said that pre-tax profits for the year are likely to come in between £100m and £150m as a result of the Icelandic volcano, marking a drop from the groups estimates of up to £200m.

Outgoing chief executive Andy Harrison said although the airline faced the worst snowfall in 30 years, the worst recession in 70 years and an unprecedented closure of airspace, EasyJet will still deliver 2010 profit growth.

Revenue at the airline was up by 13.3 per cent to £1.7bn, while revenue per seat climbed by 5.1 per cent on the back of increased passenger demand.

Harrison said: “This is a remarkable performance based on strong European-wide consumer demand.”

More than 20m passengers flew with EasyJet during the six months ending 31 March, marking a 10.6 per cent rise on last year’s numbers. That number is expected to rise as the airline has already sold 50 per cent of its summer seats.

However, the news comes as Harrison, who is set to exit EasyJet on 30 June to take up a senior role at Whitbread, came under harsh scrutiny by easyGroup owner Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who accused Harrison of being “overrated” and that he “felt sorry” for his new employers.

Harrison said that his role was to run the business according to a strategy set out by the board of which Haji-Ioannou is a member.

Harrison is to be replaced on 1 July by ex-chief executive of the Guardian Group, Carolyn McCall.