EasyJet Plc, Europe’s second-largest discount carrier, said it narrowed its first-half loss as winterly weather in much of Western Europe spurred a rush of late bookings for the Easter holiday.

The pretax loss for the six months ended March 31 was in the range of 60 million pounds to 65 million pounds ($91 million-$99 million), Luton, England-based EasyJet said in a statement today. The year-earlier loss was 112 million pounds.

EasyJet’s earnings are improving as Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall boosts frequencies on key routes while using allocated seating, flexible tickets and corporate agents to grab a bigger slice of the business market. The carrier said today it’s placing orders for three Airbus SAS A320 aircraft as it mulls options for a larger purchase.

“First-half losses have been halved year-on-year through our disciplined approach to capacity deployment and a focus on cost management,” McCall said in the statement. “We have also benefited from rival airlines taking winter capacity out of the market, the earlier timing of Easter and poor weather across the U.K. and northern Europe which stimulated strong bookings.”

EasyJet flew 4.87 million people in March, 5.3 percent more than a year earlier, and began flights between Moscow and London, as well as from Milan to Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Weak Pound

The company, which had forecast a pretax loss in the range of 50 million pounds to 75 million pounds, said a weaker pound had an adverse impact of 30 million pounds to 35 million pounds in the half, with a 5 million-pound impact from fuel.

“We continue to see the second half carrying a more competitive edge,” Damian Brewer, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in London, said in a note to investors today. “Summer 2013 faces greater competitor capacity expansion at Gatwick, which we think may dampen achievable yield upside.”

EasyJet fell as much as 56 pence, or 5.1 percent, to 1,041 pence in London trading, the most in more than a year. The stock has gainede 38 percent this year, valuing the company at 4.18 billion pounds. Aviation stocks declined globally on concern that bird-flu deaths in China will affect demand for travel.

EasyJet has previously placed orders for a combined 242 Airbus single-aisle airplanes of which 210 had been delivered through the end of March, according to the Toulouse, France- based aircraft maker.

–Editors: Christopher Jasper, Benedikt Kammel

To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at [email protected]


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