EasyJet has announced a trimming of half year winter losses by 26% from £153 million to £112 million as it continues its fight against high Air Passenger Duty.

The reduced losses were based on a 15.7% rise in revenue to £1.4 billion in the six months to March 31. Passenger numbers were up by 5.4% to 25.2 million, with an increased level of short haul business travellers.

“We continue to develop our business travel proposition and now have reached agreements with most of the top ten travel management companies,” the airline said while claiming a 20% share of UK short-haul traffic.

Total revenue per seat grew by 11.9% to £50.47, driven by a combination of tighter market capacity, improvements in revenue management, website initiatives and the ‘Europe by easyJet’ marketing campaign.

Seats flown grew by 3.5% and the average load factor improved by 1.5 percentage points.

EasyJet was helped by a £15 milion reduction in winter flight disruption costs as it benefited from the “benign” weather across Europe compared to a year earlier.

The budget carrier also revealed this morning that nearly half of its summer seats were now sold, in line with the same time last year.

The carrier urged the government to set out a clear aviation policy, “as the lack of a framework for UK aviation is causing uncertainty and appears to be slowing down decision making”.

It said: “There has been much focus on the role of a hub airport, and easyJet is concerned this will underplay the importance of point-to-point traffic provided by airlines such as easyJet.

“EasyJet wants the UK government to set a clear vision for consumer policy, which will support our work to put the customer first.”

While the airline said it successfully resisted the government’s proposals to restructure APD, which would have increased rates on short-haul travel and reduced long-haul rates, the government raised all rates of the passenger tax last month.

“EasyJet believe these increases are working against the government’s growth agenda, and discouraging travel to the UK,” the airline said in its trading statement. “EasyJet is working with other airlines on this issue and seeking a reversal of the increase.”

Chef executive Carolyn McCall said: “In the first six months of the year easyJet has continued to deliver improvements in customer satisfaction, operational, and financial performance. We have also returned £196 million to our shareholders.”

But she added: “The economic environment remains uncertain, and the aviation industry faces headwinds such as the recent increase in UK APD.

“However, easyJet’s strategy of low fares and our focus on making it easy for our customers, aligned with tight cost management and strictly managed allocation of capital, ensures that easyJet is well positioned to deliver good results for shareholders.”