easyJet: record passengers, falling profits

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Carrier seeks to break free of the UK, post-Brexit

It has been a “difficult” year for UK-based low-cost carrier easyJet, with the weakened pound bringing extra costs of more than £100m (€112 million), just as a change in leadership approaches.

The airline’s profits have fallen 17% over the last year, with the currency losses coming due to the slump in the pound after the Brexit vote.

Despite that, it was a record year for passenger numbers, to 80.2 million, almost 10% more than in 2015-16, and on ever fuller planes, the Guardian reports. Revenues exceeded £5 billion, but profits before tax tumbled to £408 million from £494 million.

easyJet has had to cut fares in an effort to fill seats, bringing to an end what the outgoing chief executive, Carolyn McCall, calls “a difficult year for the aviation industry”.

“Our planned approach of achieving number one or two positions at Europe’s leading airports, friendly and efficient customer service and a continuous focus on sustainable cost control, has put easyJet at a strategic advantage during a period when there have been bankruptcies and some airlines have struggled operationally,” she said.

Breaking free
The airline will now work towards ensuring it is majority owned and controlled by EU nationals after 2019. About a third of its shares are owned by its UK-Cypriot founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou; these are classed as EU-owned. But easyJet will ask for new powers at its next AGM to force UK shareholders to sell.

McCall says this is “a technical, administrative thing” and the airline has “no concerns” about getting enough EU shareholders.

High levels of forward bookings and better revenue prospects in its 2017-18 financial year bodes well for the new Swedish CEO and former Tui executive Johan Lundgren who starts work on December 1.

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