easyJet sees short-term Omicron hit before summer recovery

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LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – British airline easyJet said the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was impacting its performance this quarter, but it expected to see strong demand this summer when its capacity will be near pre-pandemic levels.

The company said on Thursday it flew 64% of pre-pandemic capacity in its first quarter to end-December, but its 77% load factor missed its forecast of over 80% after Omicron dented customer demand in December.

Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said bookings jumped in Britain earlier this month when travel restrictions were reduced and they were boosted again when the government said testing requirements would end next month.

“We see a strong summer ahead, with pent up demand that will see easyJet returning to near 2019 levels of capacity with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well,” he said.

The airline said it had about 67% of pre-pandemic capacity on sale for the current quarter, with the level ramping up from around 50% in January.

In November, before the impact of Omicron was clear, easyJet had forecast its capacity this quarter would be around 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

Total group revenue for it first quarter increased to 805 million pounds ($1.08 billion) against 165 million pounds a year ago, easyJet said, while its headline loss before tax for the quarter nearly halved to 213 million pounds.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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