Business

We're off to the piste as easyJet plans new ski route from Belfast

EasyJet is considering a new ski route from Belfast next year
Gary McDonald Business Editor

LOW-cost airline easyJet could launch a new ski-specific route from Belfast International Airport next year, its UK markets director Sophie Dekkers revealed yesterday.

The no-frills carrier had its "biggest-ever ski season" from Aldergrove last winter after introducing a direct flight to Lyon, which added 90,000 passengers to its load.

"Geneva has traditionally been the key route from Belfast for those wanting to enjoy the piste, but Lyon has really surprised us," she said.

"We haven't yet confirmed our route schedule for next year, but we'll probably be looking at adding a ski destination."

Easyjet - which posted overall losses of £24 million for the six months to the end of March against profits of £7 million a year earlier - carried a record-breaking four million passengers from Belfast in the last 12 months, up from 3.6m a year earlier.

It grew its Northern Ireland business by 13.7 per cent, which is twice the rate of the company as a whole.

And despite huge competition from rival carriers at Belfast City Airport, Ms Dekkers confirmed that easyJet grew its traffic to London airports by 16 per cent.

Operating to 27 destinations (including to 16 international airports), easyJet - which it is the north's biggest airline - only has five aircraft permanently based at Aldergrove, but it is the equivalent of 13 given the number of mainly domestic movements on a daily basis.

The company also has 59 cockpit crew and another 155 cabin crew based in Northern Ireland.

Corporately, easyjet said recent terror attacks saw some passengers stay away, and its bottom line was also hit by a £33 million foreign exchange rate impact.

Sales suffered after November's attacks in Paris, which knocked 2.7 per cent off revenues per seat in the first half, while the suspension of flights on routes to the popular Egyptian tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh following the Russian airliner crash reduced revenues by another 1.3 per cent.

Half-year revenues per seat were left 6.6 per cent lower overall at £51.29 and easyJet warned that trading would remain tough in its third quarter as demand continues to be impacted by the terrorist bombing at Brussels airport in March.

Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, said: "We delivered a robust financial performance during the half year despite the well-publicised external events.

"Underlying consumer demand has been strong with UK beach traffic providing a healthy start to the half and easyJet's biggest ever ski season helping to deliver increased passenger numbers and higher revenue during the first half."

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