Easyjet woes. | Peter Nicholls


British airline easyJet said this morning it had seen some softening of trading in the first quarter following COVID outbreaks including the Omicron variant, but it remained well placed to handle uncertainty through its financial year.

The group, which has cut costs and prioritised the strongest routes, said it had seen an encouraging start to the year, with strong demand returning for peak winter holiday periods, and increasing demand for summer bookings.

Revenue booked for the second half of its financial year, which began on Oct.1, is ahead of 2019 levels, and it is increasing its fleet plan by 25 aircraft to tap in to demand.
Airlines have been on a roller-coaster of a ride this year, steadily recovering in the first half as first Europe and then Britain reopened for travel, before fears started to grow about the pace of the recovery, and as new COVID outbreaks emerged.

Airline shares plunged on Friday as news of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus broke.
The group reported a headline loss before tax of 1.14 billion pounds ($1.52 billion) for the year to end-September, at the higher end of forecasts, and said first-quarter capacity was expected to be up to around 65% of 2019 levels.
It expects capacity to have recovered close to 2019 levels by the fourth quarter of 2022. It did not give a full financial outlook however.