Easyjet bounces back from Covid as Brits seek the sun

(Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
(Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

EASYJET soared back from Covid with booming bookings as Brits desperate to escape strikes and government austerity plot holidays abroad.

The budget airline lost more than £1 billion 2020 and 2021 as the pandemic raged and flights were mostly banned.

All airlines were hit, but easyjet was seen as especially vulnerable given its low prices and small margins.

It even faced a cheeky takeover bid from Wizz Air.

Today chief executive Johan Lundgren says easyJet will benefit from austere times.

He said: “easyJet does well in tough times. Legacy carriers will struggle in this high-cost environment. Consumers will protect their holidays but look for value and across its primary airport network, easyJet will be the beneficiary as customers vote with their wallets.”

Easyjet is still loss making, down £178 million in the year to September.

But revenue rose from £1.5 billion to £5.8 billion.

The airlines says it is seeing growth at Gatwick. Sales at the October half-term and for Christmas are “back to normal” and Easter bookings look strong.

Research by easyJet shows that 64% of consumers plan to fly abroad next year. They will prioritise a holiday over other expenditure, with sales at peak periods expected to be particularly strong.

Lundgren added: ““We just had a half-term in October that was strong, we see strong demand for Christmas, for new year, for the ski season where easyJet is the largest airline in Europe to the ski markets.”

The research shows that people will cut back on eating out, new clothes and new cars to afford a vacation.

There is gossip in the industry that easyJet might fall to a bigger rival. Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has said WizzAir and Easyjet must merge to avoid a takeover.

Lundgren said: “There is a lot of nonsense speculation out there. I would ignore a lot of those rumours to be honest.”

Lundgren added: “easyJet goes into the 2023 financial year with one of the strongest balance sheets in European aviation.”

Easyjet shares are down 20% this year. They slipped 13p to 380p.

Staff shortage issues remain a problem. Airports and airlines have struggled to get enough staff to cope with returning demand leading to delays and travel chaos.

Higher energy prices are also a factor, though easyJet hedges about 75% of its fuel costs.

Matt Britzman, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

“Bottom line profits remain a little out of reach for easyJet, who’ve seen a wave of headwinds over the year from Omicron early on, to airport disruptions and flight cancellations more recently. Rather than head for the emergency exit, easyJet’s made the best of a bad year and full year results mask a positive fourth quarter, where on some profit measures easyJet posted record numbers. Demand looks to be resilient, despite obvious cost of living pressures.”

Neil Shah at Edison said: “easyJet shows that the airline industry has bounced back following two difficult years of travel restrictions. Despite easyJet’s stock hitting a 10-year low back in October, there are reasons for investors to look up. Demand for airline travel has slowly increased over the last year, with October’s trading update revealing a surge in demand for seats.”