Poor UK weather to boost easyJet

Fuller planes of passengers fleeing Britain's freezing weather are expected to boost figures from budget airline easyJet when it updates on trading on Friday.

The group, which recently entered the FTSE 100 Index, is expected to report good momentum, with analysts at Numis Securities forecasting a "positive pricing environment".
EasyJet's load factor - the measure of how full its planes are - improved to 88.2% in the 12 months to the end of February, ahead of the 87.8% rate seen a year earlier. Passenger numbers were also up 7% to almost 60 million over that period.

Ahead of easyJet's update for the six months to the end of March, Numis Securities believes the carrier's winter trading has been boosted by the weather sending Britons abroad in search of warmer conditions.
Analyst Wyn Ellis said: "We believe that the ski season was strong and the very poor weather in the UK has provided a significant boost to recent bookings.

"Consequently, we expect a positive update on recent trading, an encouraging outlook statement and consider that there is a strong possibility that full-year guidance will be upgraded."

The carrier has guided the City to expect a loss of £50 million to £75 million over the six months to the end of March, compared with the £112 million loss reported a year earlier. Airlines traditionally report losses over the weaker winter period.

EasyJet was promoted to the blue-chip index last month after a strong run for its shares, which are up 40% so far this year. The Luton-based airline, which joined the stock market in 2000, has benefited from improved operational performance and the launch of allocated seating.

It has consistently beaten City expectations for profits but a long-running war of words with founder and major shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has overshadowed some of its recent success.

Sir Stelios, whose family holds around 36% of the company's shares, has been unhappy at plans to place a large order for a fleet of more fuel-efficient aircraft.

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