* Raises profit forecast to 310-320 mln stg from 280-300 mln
* Passenger numbers up 7.1 pct to 58.4 mln in year to end
* Shares up nearly 4 pct
By Rhys Jones
LONDON, Oct 3 British low-cost airline easyJet's
profits got an unexpected boost from sun-starved Britons
taking last-minute holidays to flee the wet weather at home this
summer and from Londoners getting away after the Olympics.
Europe's second-largest budget airline after Ryanair
said on Wednesday it now expects to report a pretax profit of
between 310 million and 320 million pounds ($516.43 million) for
the year to the end of September, having previously predicted a
result of 280 million to 300 million pounds.
"Following the end of the Olympic games demand from London
increased towards the upper end of expectations with the late
market and beach routes performing particularly well," said
Chief Executive Carolyn McCall, adding that the carrier was
"well placed to continue to succeed" despite a European economic
outlook which she called "highly uncertain".
EasyJet, the largest carrier at London's Gatwick airport,
said a strong rise in summer bookings from Britain to Malaga and
Alicante in Spain and Faro in Portugal had helped revenue per
seat by as much as 5.5 percent in the last six months. Annual
passenger numbers rose by 7.1 percent to 58.4 million.
Some 40 percent of easyJet's flights are to or from Britain,
with around a quarter of its 193 plane fleet based at Gatwick.
EasyJet said its performance on routes within mainland
Europe also improved during the year, helped by growth on Swiss
services and the addition of French regional services.
Shares in easyJet, which have risen 50 percent in 2012, were
up nearly 4 percent at 615.5 pence by 0823 GMT, valuing the
group at around 2.5 billion pounds.
Profits have doubled since McCall took over as chief
executive in July 2010.
"McCall's second full year in charge has delivered another
impressive increase in profits. That's no mean feat in view of
the oil price," said Charles Stanley analyst Douglas McNeill.
Prior to Wednesday's announcement analysts on average
expected the airline to report a full-year pretax profit of
294.4 million pounds, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S
EasyJet's strong performance bucks tough conditions
elsewhere in the airline sector
European carriers, including Air France-KLM and
Lufthansa, have seen recent results hit by a toxic mix
of high fuel costs, weak consumer confidence and the eurozone
Since the start of the year airlines including loss-making
Spanair and Hungarian flag-carrier Malev have ceased
operations, leaving gaps in the market that low-cost competitors
have been quick to exploit.
EasyJet said strict allocation of capital and aircraft
across its network, improvements in revenue management and a
tight control of costs had helped it absorb an additional 230
million pounds in fuel costs this year.
At current fuel and exchange rates the budget carrier, which
has already bought 77 percent of the fuel it needs for next
year, expects its 2012/13 fuel bill to rise by up to 40 million
The carrier said second half costs per seat were likely to
rise by between 1.5 and 2 percent, excluding fuel.
A third of seats in the first quarter of its new fiscal year
had already been sold, the airline said.�