Recovery is underway at easyJet, with the budget airline reporting an improved financial performance over the crucial summer period and announcing plans to boost its flying for the last three months of 2021.
In a trading update on October 12, 2021, the budget carrier revealed that it expects a loss for the financial year to September 30, 2021 of between £1.135 billion and £1.175 billion ($1.55 billion-$1.6 billion). This compares with a loss of £1.27 billion ($1.7 billion) recorded for the last financial year, which was only partly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
easyJet highlighted it had achieved positive operating cash in the fourth quarter of its 2021 financial year.
“During the quarter easyJet significantly ramped up its flying which meant we were the second largest airline operating in Europe this summer while also halving our Q4 losses versus last year,” chief executive Johan Lundgren commented.
easyJet has suffered from strict UK travel restrictions, meaning intra-European routes have accounted for a greater proportion of its business than normal over recent months. It has also turned to shareholders for a cash injection to see it through, raising $1.7 billion in a rights issue.
During its fourth quarter, easyJet flew 58% of its 2019 capacity, a sharp increase from levels of just 17% in the previous three months. However, while domestic traffic in the UK and intra-European flying reached 77% of pre-crisis levels in the fourth quarter, UK International travel was just 32% of 2019 levels.
However, with the UK government easing travel restrictions, easyJet announced that its overall capacity for the first quarter of its 2021/2022 financial year (October-December 2021) is now set to reach 70% of 2019 levels, an increase from previously stated plans for 60%.
“While intra-European demand led the recovery over the summer, the recent UK Government announcement to remove and relax restrictions and testing has created positive booking momentum into Q1,” the airline said in a trading update.
Lundgren said easyJet was seeing positive booking momentum, both for business and leisure travel.
He said: “It is clear recovery is underway. Business travel is returning to easyJet with corporates and SMEs attracted by our value, network and approach to sustainability.
“October half term bookings have been strong, particularly to the Canary Islands where we have increased our capacity to c.140% of FY19 levels.”
Despite being more optimistic, easyJet said that it remained difficult to make predictions as to trading, with customers continuing to book last-minute. It also said it could not provide any financial guidance for its 2021/2022 financial year. .