EasyJet CEO insisted today that demand is accelerating, despite new travel restrictions introduced as a result of the emergence of a new COVID variant Omicron.
Even as he announced a pre-tax loss of £1.14bn for the last year up to the end of September, Johan Lundgren said the airline has ‘ambitious plans for profitable growth’.
“It’s too soon to say what impact Omicron may have on European travel and any further short-term restrictions that may result. However, we have prepared ourselves for periods of uncertainty such as this,” said Mr Lundgren.
“While we’ve seen an increase in transfers with some softening of trading for Q1 [first quarter of the financial year] it is really encouraging to see that we are still seeing good levels of new bookings for H2 [second half of the year] and we still expect that Q4 FY’22 will see a return to near pre-pandemic levels of capacity as people take their long-awaited summer holidays.
He said easyJet’s capacity will be 65% of 2019 in the first quarter of the year, which is down five percentage points on its previous estimate.
The airline now won’t reach 70% until the second quarter, but it said it expects to have almost recovered to 2019 levels by the end of the financial year.
However, independent financial adviser Simon Lister of the financial comparison website Investing Reviews intimated easyJet’s goals might be unrealistic, saying: “It’s bold for the airline to think that it will return to near pre-pandemic levels of capacity next summer, all the more so given the Omicron variant.
“For airlines in particular, the emergence of new COVID variants can hit sentiment in seconds and the bottom line almost as quickly.
“Even if the Omicron variant is not as virulent as some feared, it highlights how investor sentiment, and share prices, can turn on a dime.”