EasyJet, Europe's No 2 discount airline, grew faster than market leader Ryanair Holdings last year as Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall refined its product offering to appeal to a wider range of clients.
EasyJet's passenger count rose by 2.13 million, or 3.6 per cent, to 61.3 million in 2013, the UK carrier said on Wednesday. That compares with 2.3 per cent growth at Ireland'sRyanair, which added 1.8 million travelers for a total of 81.4 million.
Under McCall, EasyJet has boosted frequencies on core routes and introduced allocated seating and flexible tickets to draw corporate clients. The Luton, England-based airline lifted traffic in the first three months of 2013 even as about 80 jets were idled at Ryanair, where CEO Michael O'Leary recently began a campaign to improve standards of customer service.
The UK company also filled 89.3 per cent of available seats on average in 2013, compared with a load factor of 83 per cent at Dublin-based Ryanair, which has its biggest hub at London Stansted airport.
Shares of EasyJet doubled in value last year to 1,536 pence after a 79 per cent gain in 2012. They'd added 3.4 per cent this year as of 11:09am in London, valuing the business at £6.3 billion ($10 billion).
Ryanair rose 32 per cent in 2013 after saying on September 4 it might miss profit goals for the year to March 31, and is up 4.1 per cent in 2014 for a value of €9 billion ($12 billion). EasyJet carried 4.49 million passengers last month after a 3.5 per cent gain, about 300,000 fewer than at Ryanair, where the total rose four per cent. For the year, the gap between the two carriers remained at about 20 million travellers.
Air Berlin Plc, which ranks as the European No 3 in budget flights while also offering long-distance leisure trips, said today that its passenger total dropped 5.4 per cent last year to 31.5 million.
The carrier, in which Etihad Airways PJSC of Abu Dhabi is a minority investor, scrapped earnings and debt targets on November 14, citing the impact of sluggish economies.
Budapest-based Wizz Air Ltd, Eastern Europe's biggest budget carrier and the No 5 for the region as a whole, boosted customer numbers 12 per cent in 2013 to 13.5 million, with an 86 per cent load factor. Norwegian Air Shuttle AS, the No 4, will post annual traveler figures tomorrow. The total for the 12 months through November was 20.4 million.
Aer Lingus Group Plc, Ireland's second-biggest airline, carried 9.6 million passengers in 2013, similar to the year- earlier tally, according to a statement from the Dublin-based company, which Ryanair has been prevented from buying by antitrust regulators after building up a 30 per cent stake.
Aer Lingus's load factor of 78.4 per cent lagged behind leading low-cost specialists, and the December passenger count shrank by 3,000 to 648,000 customers.
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