A growing appetite for air travel from customers from around the North East has helped EasyJet hit record first-half profits.
In the six months ended March 31, the company recorded a pre-tax profit of £7m, up from a £53m loss in the comparable period the year before. Revenue, meanwhile, rose 3.8% to £1.77bn.
The figures are particularly striking given that airlines traditionally suffer a loss in the first half before making money over the summer.
UK country director Sophie Dekkers said a number of factors had contributed, including lower fuel prices, cheaper flights and initiatives such as security fast-tracking being introduced at 35 airports.
The business had also benefited from a exceptionally strong ski season and, at Newcastle International Airport, would now maintain flights to Geneva year round.
“At some of the London airports, we had done that anyway,” she said. “However, we saw that it would be an attractive option at Newcastle.
“Switzerland provides a slightly different summer break, with hiking and walking, but we are also considering the business market.”
During the period, flights from Newcastle were 89.5% full, compared to 82.9% full the year before.
And, while the Easyjet service between the North East and Gatwick was recently cancelled due to insufficient customer demand, the business was strengthening its offer with new routes - Split, Rhodes and Corfu - to be introduced at the start of next month.
“The increased take-up in the North East is quite significant compared to the overall network growth,” Ms Dekkar said.
“About 50% of our flights are now less than £50 and both the economy and employment in the North East have improved.
“There is increased confidence in the market and people are flying more often.”
UK commercial manager Ali Gayward added: “One of the reasons we extended the Geneva flight was because of a particular demand from corporations in the Newcastle area.
“The businesses needed access year-round. Domestic routes such as Belfast and Bristol have also been popular with business travellers.”
Despite the strong results, EasyJet’s share price dropped yesterday because of warnings that currency movements and an industrial dispute in France could cut revenue per seat and dent full-year profits.
However, Ms Dekkar said the company had received some “reassurances” from the French government during discussions on the latter matter.
Going forward, Ms Gayward added, the business was set to benefit from improvements in its digital offering.
A new mobile app, for example, had been a “real success” and an app for the Apple Watch had been produced in advance of its UK release.