NO-FRILLS airline easyJet has delivered a profits haul of £201.9m after flying 37.2 million passengers in the year to September 30.
The record figure, which was 56% higher than a year earlier, came as the group managed to curb costs at a time of rising fuel charges and the doubling of air passenger duty for UK customers. It grew revenues by 11% to £1.79bn in the period, with passenger numbers up by 13% on last time.
The figure includes a one-off benefit of £10.6m from the group’s investment in the UK’s air traffic control company. Without this, group underlying profits increased 48% to £191.3m.
EasyJet said it expected the figure to be around 20% higher in the current financial year, with the situation on fuel costs set to remain challenging.
The company, which is now Europe’s fourth largest airline, added eight new destinations and 46 routes in the financial year, taking its flying programme at the end of September to 289 routes through 77 airports and 21 countries.
The network will be bolstered in the new year when easyJet completes the £103.5m takeover of GB Airways, a franchise partner of British Airways. GB is primarily a Gatwick-based operator, covering destinations across southern Europe and northern Africa with a fleet of 15 Airbus aircraft.
Staff numbers rose to 5,674 by the end of September, up from 4,859 a year earlier as the airline sought to correct staff shortages seen in summer 2006.
Looking forward, easyJet said it expected total revenues per seat to be broadly in line with last winter. The figure declined in the last financial year because of initial passenger reaction to a doubling of air passenger duty, plus a subsequent promotional programme to ensure demand remained strong.
For the summer, the airline expects a revenues per seat improvement on a year earlier, helped by baggage charges and ancillary revenues, which averaged £3.85 per seat at the end of the last financial year.
The airline said its speedy boarding product, which allows customers to priority board the aircraft for a charge of between £2.50 and £7.50, had been the biggest contributor to its recent improvement in ancillary revenues.
The company said its performance on costs had been impressive, with total unit costs excluding fuel improving by £1.81 to £26.55 per seat. Fuel costs for the year totalled £425.5m, up 9.7% on 2006.
EasyJet added: “The fuel environment remains challenging; however, we believe the easyJet business model is resilient and well positioned for success.”