Easyjet: Terror attacks will not harm air travel growth

Easyjet plane Image copyright EPA

Easyjet's chief executive does not expect any lasting impact on trading following the recent terror attacks in France and Egypt.

Carolyn McCall said heightened airport security measures and worries about air travel would understandably lead to a "cooling off" among passengers.

But history showed that passenger growth always resumed despite tragic events, she said.

The comments came as Easyjet posted its fifth straight year of record profits.

After the downing of a Russian aircraft last month, killing all 224 people on board, the UK government suspended services to Sharm el-Sheikh airport pending a security review.

It is a popular tourist destination, although Ms McCall said the route remained a small service in the context of Easyjet's size.

On Tuesday, Russia's FSB security service confirmed that the passenger plane was brought down by a bomb, as traces of explosives had been found in the debris.

Ms McCall told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme that by the end of Tuesday, all Easyjet passengers would have been brought back to the UK from Sharm. The airline was limited to two flights a day because of capacity constraints at Sharm airport.

She said that increased airport security following the Russian jet crash, and attacks in Paris on Friday, was inevitable.

"It will take a little longer to get though airports, but I do not think that passengers will mind because it has to be safety first," she said.

Ms McCall said she did not expect any lasting impact on trading, with fewer passengers flying following the attacks. "There's always a cooling off after tragic events," she said. "But it does resume after a period of time, and I think that we will see this here."

Easyjet is the second biggest carrier in France, with 1,000 employees there.

'Positive outlook'

Meanwhile, annual pre-tax profits at the carrier, which has just celebrated its 20th birthday, jumped 18% to £686m, boosted by what the airline said were "favourable economic and consumer trends".

Revenues rose 3.5% to £4.68bn, with passenger numbers up 6% to 68.6 million in the year to end-September.

The figures do not include any possible impact on Easyjet services of last month's Egypt attack.

But Ms McCall said in a statement that the trading outlook for the group as a whole was strong.

"Our outlook for the longer term is positive. We expect demand in our markets to be sustained and for Easyjet to continue to be a winner in its markets. We will see passenger growth of 7% a year."

Easyjet's load factor, a key industry measure of how many seats are filled per flight, rose to 91.5% from 90.6%.

The airline also announced the appointment of its first head of data science, to accelerate the airline's use of artificial intelligence.

By using complicated computer programmes to analyse huge amounts of data on everything from online searches to the food and drink bought on aircraft, Easyjet says it can improve efficiency and revenues.

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