EasyJet peak bookings return to pre-Covid levels as it cuts losses

Airline says it is struggling at quieter times and has increased ticket prices as fuel and other costs rise

Bookings at easyJet for Christmas, the ski season and other peak periods have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, the airline has said after it dramatically reduced its full-year loss to £178m.

“Peak holiday weeks this winter, such as October half-term and Christmas week in the UK, are back to normal levels of volume,” easyJet said, although its boss warned that in quieter times the airline is still struggling to get enough passengers. It expects to have fully returned to 2019 capacity levels by next summer.

Johan Lundgren, the chief executive, said the carrier was experiencing strong demand in peak periods, noting a survey that found three-quarters of people want to travel next year despite the cost of living crisis.

He said: “We just had a half-term in October that was strong, we see strong demand for Christmas, for new year, for the ski season.

“But outside these peak periods, it’s fair to say there’s still a need to stimulate the level of demand. There are big cost increases also coming towards the industry. EasyJet has historically done well in times of economic challenges because people gravitate towards value.”

EasyJet has increased ticket prices as jet fuel and other costs rise, with fares for the Christmas period up by 18% this year so far, and more than 10% on average during the autumn. Lundgren said half of all tickets sold until next September would still cost less than £50. He said the eastern Mediterranean was popular with travellers, in particular Turkey, Egypt and Greece.

The airline’s headline pre-tax loss of £178m for the year to 30 September is a big turnaround from last year’s loss of £1.1bn, and includes a £64m loss from balance sheet revaluations related to the impact of a weaker pound. EasyJet flew nearly 70 million people in the past year, compared with 20 million in 2021.

Staff shortages persist and easyJet has begun recruiting for next summer early to avoid the travel chaos that hit the sector this year, when massive queues formed at many airports around Europe. The carrier has had 19,000 applications for 2,000 jobs next summer. It recently launched a recruitment drive in the UK urging people over the age of 45 to join its cabin crews, which Lundgren said had been met with a phenomenal response.

He said the carrier was in daily conversations with contractors including its Gatwick ground handlers, DHL, to ensure resilience for next year, with labour in short supply. Lundgren said the airline had “asked the government continuously to look to exempt all nationalities, not only Europeans, to be able to come to work for the aviation sector”.

Matt Britzman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the results suggested demand for flights remains resilient, despite cost of living pressures. “Jetsetters are splashing what cash they have on travel, chasing down some winter sun or heading up the mountains to don their best ski outfits,” he said.

“How long this willingness to keep spending lasts is difficult to judge, but with easyJet feeling positive about spring next year it looks like holidays could be one of the last areas to see spending rein in.”


Julia Kollewe and Gwyn Topham

The GuardianTramp

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