British budget airline EasyJet revealed on Thursday that first-half net losses improved after COVID travel curbs were lifted across Europe.

The carrier, which is based in Luton, north of London, follows Irish no-frills rival Ryanair in cutting losses as the aviation sector recovers from pandemic lockdowns.

Losses after taxation narrowed to £431 million (€509m) in the six months to the end of March compared with a loss of £549 million a year earlier, EasyJet said in a statement. Revenues soared more than six-fold to hit £1.5 billion, aided by increasing capacity.

The performance “was mainly driven by the reduction in COVID-19 related travel restrictions across Europe which has increased customer confidence to travel again,” EasyJet said.

The performance “was mainly driven by the reduction in COVID-19 related travel restrictions across Europe which has increased customer confidence to travel again”- Easyjet

The company added that it hopes to carry almost as many passengers in the final quarter than it did in 2019 prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Pre-tax losses contracted to £545 million in the reporting period from £701 million last time around, towards the better end of company forecasts.

“EasyJet has reduced its losses year on year,” said chief executive Johan Lundgren. “The pent-up demand and removal of travel restrictions provided for a strong and sustained recovery in trading.”

The news comes days after rival Ryanair announced a large reduction in annual net losses. Ryanair logged a loss of €355 million for its financial year to March, improving sharply from €1.0 billion last time around. 

The global aviation industry was ravaged by the coronavirus crisis as authorities rushed to contain the outbreak, but demand is now recovering.

“EasyJet is emerging quickly from the holding pattern which had decimated earnings through the course of the pandemic,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at trading firm Interactive Investor. “Given that this reporting period also includes the disruption resulting from the recent Omicron (COVID) variant, the outlook comes with the likelihood of more positive news to come.”

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