EasyJet said this morning it is seeing a boost in bookings from the move to scrap Covid travel tests, after the spread of the Omicron variant hit passenger demand last month.
The low-cost airline said Omicron saw its load factor – a measure of how well it fills its planes – slump to 67% in December after recovering past 80% in October and November.
Despite the Omicron impact, EasyJet almost halved headline pre-tax losses in its first quarter to the end of December to £213m, down from losses of £423m a year earlier.
The carrier said it has seen a “step change” in bookings since the January 5 announcement that pre-departure Covid testing will be scrapped for the fully vaccinated from February 11, with demand buoyed further by news of restriction-free travel also due from next month.
EasyJet said while Omicron is expected to continue to have a short-term impact on its performance in the quarter to the end of March, its flight programme will “ramp up” from just 50% of 2019 levels in January to near pre-pandemic levels by the end of the fourth quarter.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, said: “EasyJet produced a significant year-on-year improvement in the first quarter, despite the short-term impact of Omicron in December.”
“We believe testing for travel across our network should soon become a thing of the past.”Johan Lundgren
He added: “Booking volumes jumped in the UK following the welcome reduction of travel restrictions announced on 5 January, which have been sustained and then given a further boost from the UK Government’s decision earlier this week to remove all testing requirements.
“We see a strong summer ahead, with pent-up demand that will see easyJet returning to near-2019 levels of capacity with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well.”