British low-cost airline EasyJet yesterday reported a small rise in its winter bookings, shrugging off fears about an increasingly competitive European travel market.
The company also posted a 21.5% rise in pre-tax profit to £581m (€726.4m) for the year to the end of September, in line with an upgraded forecast it made last month.
Cheap fares have helped EasyJet and rival Ryanair win market share in Europe’s short-haul travel sector from traditional airlines such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, which have recently announced plans to expand their own budget services.
EasyJet, Europe’s second largest low-cost carrier after Ryanair, said its strong position in main airports, where new slots are not readily available, would help it attract more customers.
EasyJet is facing competition across the board. While Air France, for example, expands low-cost unit Transavia, Ryanair is moving into space traditionally occupied by EasyJet — improving its previously much criticised customer service and expanding into main airports used by business travellers.
That strategy and a surge in winter bookings helped Ryanair raise its profit forecast this month.
EasyJet said it would lift its ordinary dividend per share by 35.5%, 45.4p, in line with a proposal made earlier this year to reward shareholders with a higher proportion of profit.
Some analysts had suggested the company — which announced a special dividend in 2013 and 2011 — could do the same this year.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall told reporters that was under review. “We’re not saying that we won’t do a special dividend, it’s just about the timing,” she said.
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