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EasyJet forecasts return to near pre-Covid flying levels in 2022 | easyJet


EasyJet said it was heading for summer with “strong momentum and optimism”, flying at near pre-pandemic capacity in peak season as the lifting of Covid restrictions helped the airline narrow its half-year losses and look to a return to profit.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said easyJet was benefiting from “pent-up demand and removal of travel restrictions” as well as a strategic decision to run more of its flights on popular routes.

EasyJet said that since the Easter holiday in mid-April, it had been operating 1,600 flights and carrying up to 250,000 customers a day. The airline added that it was facing the summer travel season “with optimism”, by when Lundgren said capacity would be at 97% of pre-pandemic levels.

“As we return to a more normal summer season, we are ready to capture the increased levels of demand right across our network,” he said. “We are confident in our plans for summer which will see us reaching near 2019 flying levels and look forward to competing with our renewed strengths as a winner in the post pandemic recovery of European aviation.”

He said the airline would have to “wait and see” how economic worries would affect winter bookings, but added: “The unemployment numbers are really important for us – when people have the certainty of an income that is good for this industry.”

While fuel and cost of living rises would be an issue, he added: “People who have the opportunity to prioritise, over the cost of surviving, tend to choose holidays over expensive items. EasyJet has done well in recession because people trade on value, given our competition face to face is against legacy carriers.”

The budget airline narrowed its losses to £557m in the six months to March, compared with £645m in the same period a year earlier. While it has not officially guided on full year results, Lundgren said he was “not unhappy with the consensus out there that we’d be making a small profit”.

He acknowledged the travel chaos at UK and European airports in recent weeks, but said the company “had taken action” to address problems by recruiting more workers and improving ID processing before flights.

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Thousands of passengers at some UK airports have been forced to queue outside terminals in recent weeks and some have missed flights due to staff shortages. The chaos is partly the result of layoffs during the pandemic, which were part of travel company’s efforts to rein in costs after Covid restrictions brought the industry to a standstill.

Lundgren said: “It has been well documented that the industry is experiencing some operational issues so, as you would expect, we have been absolutely focused on taking action to ensure we have strengthened our operational resilience for this summer so we can deliver a great, reliable operation to our customers.”

He said that as well as taking seats off the A319 aircraft to release more cabin crew for other flights, the company had added staff to work on the security and ID process for new hires. “We’ve got enough crew now – it’s just getting them through the process. It is a tight labour market – and we can’t be complacent because sectors are fighting for people.”

EasyJet also acknowledged that staff were struggling amid the cost of living crisis, after inflation hit 9% in April, but said it was working with trade unions to support crew while maintaining control of its cost base.

HSBC analyst Andrew Lobbenberg said: “What we can see, looks decent. Winter remains the unknown. Concerns over weakening consumer confidence in the autumn abound. We think there is a possibility that these fears may be overdone. We expect consolidation, aircraft and labour shortages combined to limit capacity and support yields in a challenging economic environment.”

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