EasyJet cuts first half losses thanks to mild winter

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Tight capacity and cost control coupled with lower levels of disruption thanks to a mild winter enabled EasyJet to shrink pre-tax losses by 26.8% to £112 million ($180.8 million) for the six months to 31 March, against £153 million a year earlier.

This came despite an increase in fuel costs of £87 million and what the carrier describes as an "extremely difficult environment for airlines" with low consumer confidence and rising taxation for air travel.

However, revenue also grew, up 15.7% to £1.46 billion from £1.26 billion in the same period last year. Passenger numbers swelled by 5.4% on load factor increased by 1.5 percentage points to 86.9%, says the carrier in a stock exchange statement. Costs associated with weather disruption fell by £15 million, it says.

It says its competitor capacity on European short-haul routes did not grow and in fact fell by 3% in EasyJet's markets "as many carriers reduced capacity and some, such as Spanair and Malev ceased to operate".

During the period it opened new bases at London Southend, Toulouse and Nice. And in April, Lisbon became the carrier's 23rd base as it located two aircraft at the Portuguese airport and added five new routes to Bordeaux, Asturias, Venice, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Regulation and taxes across Europe continue to be a concern, it says, pointing to the UK's Air Passenger Duty - raised in the recent budget - and European Commission proposals to change legislation covering slot and ground handling.

It also highlights the lack of a clear aviation policy in the UK "as the lack of a framework for UK aviation is causing uncertainty and appears to be slowing down decision making". It worries that too much emphasis is being placed on the need for a new or larger hub airport "which will underplay the importance of point-to-point traffic".

However, EasyJet is less concerned about one of the EU's most controversial pieces of legislation, the Emissions Trading System which it describes as "the most environmentally effective way to take into account the impact of aviation emissions on climate change". It is also a fairer system than local taxes such as APD, it says.

Three aircraft left its fleet during the period - a single Airbus A319 and its two final Boeing 737-700s - with three A320s added. The fleet stands at 204 aircraft this will grow by 10 aircraft this year, it says.