EasyJet to operate record number of flights to beach destinations this summer
By Neil Lancefield and Holly Williams, PA
EasyJet will operate its largest number of flights between the UK and beach destinations this summer as coronavirus restrictions ease.
With sales “performing very well”, the low-cost airline’s capacity compared with 2019 levels will be more than doubled on routes to Turkey and up 36% for Greece, according to chief executive Johan Lundgren.
An overall 14% rise in capacity on routes between the UK and beach locations make those operations “the biggest ever” in easyJet’s 26-year history, he added.
EasyJet said the Omicron variant saw its load factor, a measure of how well it fills planes, slump to 67% in December after recovering past 80% in October and November.
Despite that, the company almost halved headline pre-tax losses in its first quarter to the end of December to £213 million, down from losses of £423 a year earlier.
The carrier said it has seen a “step change” in bookings since the January 5 announcement that pre-departure Covid testing would be scrapped for fully vaccinated arrivals entering England. Demand was buoyed further by last week’s news of restriction-free travel from February 11.
Mr Lundgren said the UK is “leading on bookings versus Europe for the first time since spring 2020”.
It is “traditional beach and leisure destinations that are recovering the quickest”, he said.
EasyJet said that, 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 between July and September.
Mr Lundgren said: “EasyJet produced a significant year-on-year improvement in the first quarter, despite the short-term impact of Omicron in December.”
He added: “Booking volumes jumped in the UK following the welcome reduction of travel restrictions announced on January 5, which have been sustained and then given a further boost from the UK Government’s decision earlier this week to remove all testing requirements.”
Many destinations popular with UK holidaymakers continue to require coronavirus tests for arrivals, even if they are fully vaccinated.
They include Cyprus, France, Greece, Morocco, mainland Portugal and Switzerland.
But Mr Lundgren said he expects testing for travel “across our network should soon become a thing of the past”.
He added: “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.”