Budget airline easyJet has increased its full-year profit outlook after trimming losses in its first quarter and cheering a record surge in bookings since the start of the year.
The carrier said its headline pre-tax loss narrowed to £133 million in the three months to the end of December, against losses of £213 million a year earlier.
It carried 17.5 million passengers in the final three months of 2022, up 47% from 11.9 million during the same period in 2021.
The group said it now expects its seasonal first-half loss to be “significantly” better year on year.
This, together with strong bookings, is set to see it beat profit expectations for the full-year, according to the company.
The UK scrapped its remaining coronavirus travel restrictions in March last year.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We have seen strong and sustained demand for travel over the first quarter, carrying almost 50% more customers compared with last year.
“Many returned to make bookings during the traditional turn-of-year sale where we filled five aircraft every minute in the peak hours, which culminated in three record‐breaking weekends for sales revenue this month.
“This strong booking performance, aided by the airline’s step-changed revenue capability, has driven an £80 million year-on-year boost in the first quarter with continued momentum as customers prioritise spending on holidays for the year ahead.”
He added: “This will set us firmly on the path to delivering a full-year profit, where we anticipate beating the current market expectation, enabling us to create value for customers, investors and the economies we serve.”
Mr Lundgren said: “Coming into the summer, the early indication is it’s really down to the places that offer great value for money (such as) Turkey and Egypt. But also Spain is popular.
“It’s very clear that people are really prioritising taking a beach holiday for this summer.”
EasyJet was one of the airlines worst affected by staffing shortages which hit much of the aviation industry for large parts of last year.
Mr Lundgren said staffing numbers at the carrier are in “a strong place” and “well ahead” of pre-coronavirus levels.
The airline intends to raise its capacity to 2019 levels between July and September.
The group’s holidays business, easyJet Holidays, has upgraded its plan for full-year growth in customers from 30% to 50%.
Richard Hunter, head of markets at investment service Interactive Investor, said: “EasyJet’s low-cost appeal continues to resonate with consumers, as the airline got off to a flying start in its new financial year.
“The signs of strength in the recovery are encouraging, and the share price has anticipated such an improvement in fortunes in rising by 50% over the last three months.”