Easyjet have reported a profit of £7million for the six months to March 31, 2015, compared with a loss of £53million the previous year.
The British low-cost carrier has confirmed that the timing of Easter boosted its revenue and profits as it fell inside the reporting period, which marks the first time the airline has made a profit in its first half since 2002.
The fall in the price of fuel, which has dropped sharply since last summer, is set to cut easyJet’s costs by between £95million and £120million for its full year to the end of September.
“As we enter the important summer season forward bookings are in line with last year and as we predicted passengers are benefiting as fares fall to reflect a more competitive operating environment and lower fuel costs,” said Carolyn McCall, easyJet chief executive.
Despite the record first-half performance, the airline’s shares fell heavily, and the carrier has warned that the disruption from French air traffic control strikes would weigh on its full-year profit. The disruption, which led the airline to cancelling 600 flights, will knock £25million of its pre-tax profits.
"Perhaps the fact that the market has become accustomed to being pleasantly surprised has resulted in a sharp markdown to the shares, given that the French air traffic control strikes will impact on revenue per seat in Q3," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.
However, the airline’s load factor rose 0.7 percent to 89.7, and revenue per seat was up 2.6 percent, while cost per seat fell 1.4 percent.
"The profit in the half reflects the delivery of our customer-focused revenue initiatives and a strong finish to the ski season, as well as the benefit we received from the lower fuel price and favourable foreign exchange movements," added Carolyn McCall.
The airline has announced that it will modify its fleet of Airbus A320’s to accommodate 186 passengers on each plane, six more than the current arrangement after Airbus began offering a higher-density setup.
The move, which will take place between May 2016 and the summer of 2018, should deliver a 2 percent reduction in per seat costs. It could also help easyJet keep pace with LCC rival, Ryanair who have announced plans to put more people on its Boeing 737 jets.
According to the Barclays equity research report, easyJet will grow capacity by six percent this summer, targeted at markets where it is currently the number one low-cost carrier, including France, Italy and Switzerland.
The report notes that “strong demand environment, moderating competitor capacity, disciplined own growth, and self-help benefits should see easyJet’s summer pricing (RPS) comfortably in positive territory.”