EasyJet orders new planes as profits rise

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Low-cost airline easyJet announced plans to expand its fleet today after posting record profits for the last financial year.

The Luton-based carrier has placed firm orders for 52 Airbus 319 aircraft, while securing options over a further 75 in the A320 family.

The expansion came as easyJet said profits in the year to the end of September hit £129 million, an increase of 56 per cent despite soaring fuel costs.

Easyjet flew its 122-strong fleet on 262 routes and served 74 airports in 21

countries during the period, boosted by the addition of 11 new destinations.

It said strong demand over the summer lifted passenger numbers by 11.5 per cent to 33 million, while revenues from supplementary business rose 34 per cent to 86p per seat.

At the same time, unit costs increased by 33 per cent to £2.48 per seat, but easyJet said it had cut other overheads by 1.5 per cent.

The airline expects to increase capacity by another 15 per cent next year, although it warned of a challenging summer as competition is likely to remain strong.

Chief executive Andy Harrison said the latest Airbus order underpinned future growth prospects, with 104 new aircraft now on firm order and with a list price of four billion US dollars (£2.09 billion).

He said the profile of the fleet - with an average age of 2.2 years and high utilisation rates - meant easyJet was responsible for 30 per cent less emissions per passenger kilometre than traditional airlines flying similar routes.

Mr Harrison added: "We welcome the Stern Review, which says that aviation accounts for just 1.6 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, and we have long campaigned to bring aviation into the European Emissions Trading System as soon as possible.

"EasyJet's growth over the coming years and the scale of this order will also support thousands of European jobs in aircraft manufacturing, tourism, airports and the many other industries that aviation supports."