THOSE of a certain vintage will recall the publicity surrounding easyJet when the airline’s founder, the Greek-Cypriot entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, launched the low-cost carrier back in 1995, its first-ever flight – from London Luton to Glasgow Airport – taking off on November 10 that year, followed by Luton-Edinburgh a fortnight later.

Claiming to make “flying as affordable as a pair of jeans – £29 one way”, the upstart airline, with its instantly recognisable orange and white branding, certainly ruffled feathers with its “bus in the sky” approach to aviation, opening up air travel to thousands of people. Dublin-based Ryanair, established in the 1980s, had relaunched as “Europe’s first low fares airline” in 1990 but easyJet seemed to chime with thrifty Scots looking for a bargain.

easyJet puts thousands of Scotland flights on sale

Nearly 30 years later from that first Luton-Glasgow flight, easyJet claims to be Europe’s largest airline – and Scotland’s largest airline – and has moved from a flight-only model to become a key player in the package holiday sector through its easyJet Holidays arm.

Launched back in 2019, easyJet Holidays’ growth was thwarted by Covid but it is now on a strong upward trajectory as holidaymakers seek respite from the cost of living crisis and prioritise travelling for discretionary spend – choosing low-cost airlines and brands which provide good value for money.

The low-cost carrier’s strategy of allocating aircraft to the most profitable routes based on demand and generating further revenue from ancillary products such as checked bags and seat assignments has clearly benefited easyJet. And today’s news that easyJet is confident that demand for travel will remain strong this summer despite higher fuel costs and recording heavy losses over the winter, the second worst since it was founded in 1995, has been welcomed by analysts.

easyJet suspends Israel flights until October

John Moore, senior investment manager at RBC Brewin Dolphin, noted that “overall, easyJet is well capitalised, efficient, and growing through add-on services such as its easyJet Holidays business”.

He added: “EasyJet has narrowed losses for this half of the year, which is generally slower due to the seasonality of travel. The airline has continued on its positive course of the last 18 months, buoyed by strong demand for holidays, while geopolitical tension in the Middle East should have limited impact.”

The Luton-based budget carrier earlier this week suspended flights to Tel Aviv for the next six months following Iran’s missile and drone attack against Israel at the weekend. Despite this, it reduced its winter losses by at least £50 million and said it expects pre-tax losses of between £340 and £360 for the six months to the end of March, traditionally a loss-making period for the airline industry.

Strong demand for holidays sees easyJet’s profits soar

In a trading update ahead of its half-year results, easyJet attributed the improvement in its first-half “seasonal” losses to “targeted capacity growth where demand was strongest, alongside productivity and utilisation benefits which enabled ex-fuel unit costs to remain flat year on year. Meanwhile, the low-cost airline’s first-half profits were boosted by an early Easter.

A bullish Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s CEO, said: “The importance that consumers place on travel coupled with easyJet’s trusted brand has driven good demand for our flights and holidays. Our growth and focus on productivity have reduced winter losses by more than £50m.”

Noting that the airline has “further enhanced our network with the launch of new bases in Alicante and Birmingham providing greater choice for consumers across Europe”, he added: “We are well set up operationally for this summer season where we expect easyJet to be one of the fastest-growing major airlines in Europe and take more customers on easyJet holidays than ever before.”