EasyJet sees strong first quarter sales

 
Kasmira Jefford
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EASYJET bucked the gloom surrounding the airline sector by posting strong growth in first quarter revenue, helped by an uplift in the number of business travellers and the milder weather.

Europe’s second largest low-cost carrier said revenues grew by 16.7 per cent to £763m in the three months to December, as passenger numbers rose 8.1 per cent to 12.9m.

Carolyn McCall, the airline’s chief, said “assuming no significant disruption” in the second quarter, easyJet expects to recover most of the £100m increase in its first-half fuel bill and contain first-half losses to between £140m and £160m.

The company, which is traditionally heavily in the red in the first six months of the year, reported a £153m loss in the first half of last year.

Total revenue per seat rose 9.2 per cent to £51.83 in the last three months of 2011, benefitting from the strength of the Swiss franc.

McCall said easyJet had made a strong start to the year “due to firm control of costs, the strength of easyJet’s network, tight capacity discipline and pricing actions taken in the second half of last financial year,” adding she is “cautiously confident” in the outlook for the business, despite the tough economic environment.

Despite a good start to the year, the Luton-based carrier’s largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou released a statement yesterday reiterating his plans to vote against easyJet’s remuneration report at the annual general meeting next month.

The airline’s founder said that he would continue to fight against “excesses of the boardroom” arguing that plans to award around £7m in bonus shares to the airline’s senior staff are based on “phoney” calculations.