Byline: Steve Pain
Budget airline easyJet yesterday forecast growth of 20 per cent -despite seeing annual profits drop by a quarter in one of the most difficult years on record.
The company, which is competing for Europe's number one budget airline slot with Ireland's Ryanair, said integration of 120 new planes from Airbus, increasing frequency on its existing routes and expanding to new hubs in Europe meant the outlook was good.
EasyJet delivered pre-tax profits of pounds 52 million for the year to September 30, down 28 per cent after the war in Iraq sharply cut passenger numbers.
The Luton-based carrier, which has 3,370 staff, also absorbed pounds 7.9 million in costs from the integration of smaller rival Go, which it bought last year.
And easyJet has had to write off pounds 9.1 million after passing up the option to buy Deutsche BA from British Airways, saying rigid labour laws in Germany would have undermined its low cost model.
The integration of Go spurred two-thirds of the 69 per cent growth in annual revenues to a new high of pounds 932 million, the company said.
Passenger numbers jumped 79 per cent to 20.3 million, with 52 per cent of this increase coming from Go flyers.
Chief executive Ray Webster said the company's low-cost business model had proved resilient despite the ongoing slump in civil aviation and he was 'cautiously optimistic' about the performance in the current year.
'Although there remains a degree of uncertainty, the economic environment is improving and is substantially better than at this time last year,' he said.
The focus for the year would be on integrating 120 planes …