EasyJet underlines advantage over budget competitors as profit soars
EasyJet underlined its growing advantage over budget rivals, reporting annual profit at the top end of forecasts and returning cash to shareholders.
The upbeat assessment is in contrast to that given by Ryanair, Europe's biggest budget airline, which this month cut its annual profit target for the second time in two months and admitted it needed to improve customer service.
Rival airlines have been struggling with high fuel costs and weak consumer confidence, sending some smaller carriers out of business while the likes of British Airways owner IAG and Air France-KLM have cut routes, leaving gaps that low-cost airlines have been quick to exploit.
Over the last three years easyJet has added flights on routes where rivals have cut back, and introduced more flights between top business destinations. It has also added flexible ticketing to allow passengers to change their flight up to two hours before scheduled departure time, and allocated seating in an attempt to steal corporate customers.
EasyJet proposed a full year dividend of 33.5 pence a share, 55.6pc up on last year, and a special dividend of 44.1 pence per share, making a total payout to investors of £308m.
It said forward bookings were in line with last year but that its first quarter would be impacted by tough year-on-year comparisons due to strong post-Olympics demand in the UK and travel restrictions to Egypt.
However, EasyJet still expects to grow capacity, measured in seats flown, by 5pc in the coming year.