EasyJet Plc’s half-year loss shrank more than forecast as Europe’s second-biggest discount airline lured travelers with business-friendly perks and milder winter weather reduced the seasonal disruption to flights.

The pretax loss for the six months ended March 31 was 53 million pounds ($89 million), compared with 61 million pounds a year, according to a statement today. The Luton, England-based company had said in March that the loss would be between 55 million pounds and 65 million pounds.

EasyJet is intensifying efforts to win business passengers and older, affluent customers with a mix of flexible tickets, allocated seats, fast-track boarding and higher frequencies. Revenue per seat is likely to post percentage growth in “low single digits” in the second half, the airline said.

“There continue to be a number of attractive opportunities for EasyJet to grow profitably in Europe,” Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall said. “The results reflect our on-going progress against our strategic priorities, and demonstrate the structural advantage EasyJet has against both legacy and low cost competition.”

De-icing and weather-disruption costs fell in the period, even as the timing of Easter trimmed sales by 25 million pounds.

The load factor, a measure of occupancy levels, rose to 89 percent in the half, with EasyJet boosting capacity 3.6 percent to 31.1 million seats. About 51 percent of available berths have been sold for the summer period.

Capacity Growth

The cost per seat excluding fuel and currency swings was about 0.5 percent higher, with planned maintenance and lease costs offset by lower de-icing and disruption charges.

EasyJet will boost seating 6.7 percent this summer, and said it estimates competitor capacity on its routes will grow by about 3 percent as discount rivals including Ryanair Holdings Plc and Norwegian Air Shuttle AS chase market share.

Full-service carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, with Germanwings, and IAG SA, owner of Barcelona-based Vueling, are also building up their discount units in a bid to halt the march of low-cost operators.

Under McCall, EasyJet has focused on boosting frequencies between major European business hubs like Milan, Rome, Geneva and London. The airline carried 12 million business passengers in the year through March, up from 8.4 million a year in 2010.

Ryanair will release results for the full-year through March on May 19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.

Photo Credit: EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall. The Guardian