EasyJet reported its “biggest ever” bookings for beach destinations from the UK as it ramps up to “near full capacity” for the summer.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, reported “bookings jumped” following the government’s January 5 announcement of the removal of pre-departure testing for vaccinated travellers and said: “We’re seeing the UK lead Europe on bookings for the first time since spring 2020.”
Confirmation of the removal of all testing for those vaccinated from February 11 was “a further boost” he said, saying: “We’re looking ahead to a strong summer. We expect 10%-15% less traffic across the network [but] we expect to be near 2019 capacity.”
Beach destinations are leading the boom in bookings with Gatwick the biggest beneficiary of the carrier’s restored capacity.
Speaking as easyJet reported results for the three months to December, Lundgren said: “UK beach routes will be the biggest ever in 2022.
“We’ll have 1.2 million additional seats on sale from Gatwick [this summer compared with 2019].”
Wizz Air is also expanding at Gatwick and British Airways is preparing to launch a new low-cost operation from the airport this summer
Asked whether competition at Gatwick could drive down fares, Lundgren insisted: “We’re not complacent.
“[But] we are going to have 79 aircraft operating from Gatwick. Wizz will have five. If we add our aircraft coming into Gatwick from other airports, we’ll have the equivalent of 90 aircraft.”
He reported “over 50% of the programme” already sold at easyJet tour operator easyJet Holidays, adding: “We expect easyJet Holidays to carry more than one million passengers this year.
“Yields are stronger than at the same time in 2019. Beach routes are performing better than city-to-city routes.”
Lundgren noted forward bookings had “softened” in December after October and November “outperformed our expectations” but said the impact of the Omicron wave had been “short term”.
He argued: “The UK has removed all restrictions [for vaccinated travellers]. France has removed restrictions. We’ve had Italy say it’s removing testing requirements.
“The EU is recommending all member states remove test requirements from February 1. We don’t see testing now in Germany, Switzerland or Spain. It’s going to be a much more certain environment.”
EasyJet restored capacity to 71% of the 2019 level in December and to 64% across the last three months of 2021 but reduced it to 50% in January.
However, Lundgren said capacity “will ramp up as we move through the [current] quarter” to about 67% of 2019’s level.
EasyJet halved its losses year on year to £213 million in the last three months of 2021 – the first quarter of its financial year.