Belfast is a ‘ma­jor con­trib­u­tor’ to easyJet’s strong start to year

Belfast Telegraph - - BUSINESS - BY MICHELLE WEIR AND PA

BUDGET air­line easyJet, which launches three new routes from Belfast In­ter­na­tional Air­port next month, has said the air­port was a “ma­jor con­trib­u­tor” to half-yearly growth.

It said it had de­liv­ered a strong first half per­for­mance and “one of its best win­ters ever”.

Ali Gay­ward, easyJet UK coun­try man­ager and head of North­ern Ire­land, said: “We are the largest air­line in North­ern Ire­land, just short of 50% to­tal seat ca­pac­ity and over 70% at Belfast In­ter­na­tional.”

Cur­rently, easyJet has five air­craft based in Belfast with a sixth due to be added to the fleet.

The air­line em­ploys 35 flight crew for its Belfast routes. It has a pol­icy of fly­ing into “main air­ports” across its net­work.

From June 22, pas­sen­gers will be able to fly twice weekly to Marco Polo Air­port in Venice.

The fol­low­ing day, new routes to Va­len­cia in Spain and Naples in Italy will take flight.

These will bring easyJet’s routes from Belfast In­ter­na­tional to a to­tal of 31. As many as 4.5m pas­sen­gers fly to and from Belfast In­ter­na­tional with the air­line ev­ery year.

Easyjet also op­er­ates flights to 12 UK des­ti­na­tions from Belfast In­ter­na­tional in­clud­ing three in Lon­don — Gatwick, Stansted and Lu­ton — Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow. Dur­ing the sum­mer, Isle of Man flights will be in­creased to twice a week. This de­ci­sion was due to the pop­u­lar­ity of the Isle of Man TT Races.

Mrs Gay­ward added: “Belfast was one of our first busi­nesses when we launched our flights 18 years ago.

“We have been com­mit­ted to Belfast all this time. Belfast has been a re­ally ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the half yearly fig­ures — that is why we are in­vest­ing in ex­tra air­craft.”

Mrs Gay­ward added that the air­line has “room for more growth” in the fu­ture, not­ing that Belfast “is not a ca­pac­ity con­strained” air­port.

“What is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for North­ern Ire­land now is our an­nounce­ment about the easyJet hol­i­day pro­gramme which al­lows cus­tomers to buy an all-in­clu­sive hol­i­day,” she said.

“The ap­point­ment of new chief ex­ec­u­tive Garry Wil­son, who has joined easyJet from TUI, is go­ing to drive easyJet hol­i­days for­ward.

“Most of these pas­sen­gers are fly­ing with us but are book­ing ho­tels sep­a­rately.”

The com­pany be­lieves that book­ing a com­bined pack­age will be “bet­ter value” for cus­tomers.

Mrs Gay­ward es­ti­mated that ap­prox­i­mately 90 mil­lion pas­sen­gers could be ex­pected to avail of easyJet hol­i­days across its net­work an­nu­ally.

Pas­sen­ger num­bers for the six months to March 31 in­creased over­all by three mil­lion to 36.8 mil­lion.

The average cost per seat, ex­clud­ing fuel, in­creased by 2.2% to £43.

Head­line profit be­fore tax, ex­clud­ing costs as­so­ci­ated with its new op­er­a­tions in Ber­lin Tegel, came in at £8m against a £212m loss last year.

Rev­enue rose 19.5% to £2.18bn in the pe­riod for the first time, up al­most 20% year on year.

Pas­sen­ger num­bers in­creased by three mil­lion, or 8.8%, to 36.8 mil­lion in the pe­riod, in­clud­ing 700,000 from Tegel.

The com­pany in­di­cated that easyJet adds air­craft to its fleet ev­ery two or three years at a cost of $100m each.

Its new Air­bus A320­neo has been de­signed to min­imise noise im­pact on lo­cal communities and can achieve up to 15% sav­ings in fuel burn and CO2 emis­sions.

Boost: easyJet’s Ali Gay­ward

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