Nov. 19 - British budget airline easyJet underlines its growing advantage over struggling Irish rival Ryanair, reporting annual profit of 51% and returning cash to shareholders. As Hayley Platt reports a return to allocated seating and new flexible tickets has contributed to their success.
51% is today's daily digit in Europe - the rise in full-year profit at easyJet. The UK budget airline earned 478 million pounds and increased sales by 10.5 percent. It's largely thanks to its new allocated seating service and a surge in late summer bookings. It's also added flexible ticketing allowing passengers to change their flight up to two hours before scheduled departure time. But Robert Cole from Reuters Breakingviews says growth will become harder to replicate in the future and it's flexible seating option costly. SOUNDBITE: Robert Cole, Assistant Editor, Reuters Breakingviews, saying (English): "It's going to get much more difficult for easyJet. I think there is a risk that it could actually backfire and lead to a higher cost and could actually lead to a higher cost and a more difficult trajectory going out." easyJet is bucking the trend - many of its rivals are struggling. Earlier this month Europe's biggest budget carrier Ryanair cut its annual profit target for the second time in as many months. It admitted customer service needs improving to win back customers. Higher fuel costs have also hit airlines hard. British Airways owner IAG and Air France-KLM have cut routes, leaving gaps which low-cost airlines like easyJet have been quick to exploit. Over the last three years its added a number of new routes and introduced more flights between top business destinations. It expects to grow capacity by 5 percent in the coming year. And plans to return 175 million pounds to shareholders through a special dividend.