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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 11:20 GMT
Easyjet expands as profits soar
Easyjet plane taking off
Easyjet plans to increase capacity by 15% in the coming year
Easyjet has announced plans to expand its fleet as it unveiled a 56% rise in annual profits on the back of growing passenger numbers and new routes.

The low-cost carrier made a pre-tax profit of 129m ($245m) in the year to the end of September - despite a big increase in fuel costs.

Passenger numbers for the year were up by 11.5% to 33 million people.

The airline said it was buying 52 new Airbus A319 jets, and had secured the option to buy up to 75 Airbus planes.

Easyjet said this meant that it now had 104 aircraft on firm order with Airbus, with a list price of more than $4bn, and also held purchase rights over a further 123 aircraft.

The new A319 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between 2008 and 2010.

Fuel costs

Easyjet's current fleet has 122 planes, flying 282 routes on a network of 74 airports and 21 countries.

Chief executive Andy Harrison stressed that the modernity of Easyjet's fleet - with an average age of 2.2 years - meant it produced about 30% less emissions per passenger kilometre than other traditional airlines flying similar routes.

The Airbus orders are further proof of Easyjet's ambitions
Richard Hunter, Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers

"We welcome the Stern Review, which says that aviation accounts for just 1.6% of greenhouse gas emissions, and we have long campaigned to bring aviation into the European Emissions Trading System as soon as possible," he said.

Easyjet said that its fuel bill had increased by 33% over the past year - the equivalent to 2.48 for each seat on a flight.

Security alerts in August - when it had to cancel 469 flights - cost it about 4m.

The airline also said that it planned to expand capacity by about 15% next year.

Richard Hunter of Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers said Easyjet's results had been well-received.

"It appears that the spectre of soaring fuel prices has been contained, with the summer disruptions and even BA's entry into the low-cost space having limited impact," he said.

"Aggressive cost reduction, increasing passenger numbers and improvements in ancillary revenues per seat have all contributed to the near 60% rise in profits.

"The Airbus orders are further proof of Easyjet's ambitions."

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