EasyJet Plc, Europe’s second-biggest discount airline, boosted full-year earnings by more than a fifth and said it will expand capacity by as much as 5 percent this year as it seeks to add passengers.

Pretax profit for the year ended Sept. 30 climbed to 581 million pounds ($909.4 million) from 478 million pounds a year earlier, Luton, England-based EasyJet said in a statement today. That beat the 578.8 million-pound average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Under Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall, EasyJet has ramped up its presence at key airports such as London Gatwick and targeted business travelers with add-ons like allocated seats, flexible tickets and security fast-tracking. The carrier flew 11 million corporate customers in fiscal year 2013, sharpening competition with full-service carriers like Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which have faced strikes over efforts to develop discount units.

“Our performance demonstrates our continued focus on cost and progress against every strategic revenue priority,” McCall said in the statement.

Bookings for the current six months are slightly ahead of a year earlier, EasyJet said, adding that the airline will grow capacity by about 3.5 percent in the first half and by about 5 percent in the full year.

The airline has strengthened its presence at Gatwick, its single biggest base, after agreeing to pay Flybe Group Plc 20 million pounds for 25 pairs of take-off and landing slots last year. It is also ramping up at business destinations such as Amsterdam Schiphol and Hamburg, Germany.

Ryanair Holdings Plc and Vueling Airlines SA are also looking to expand as more established operators strive to streamline short-haul operations and develop their own low-cost units. EasyJet enjoyed a 5 million-pound sales boost from Air France strikes earlier this year, adding more than 3,000 seats in France between Sept. 15 and 25.

Dublin-based Ryanair, Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier, upgraded its full-year profit goal for the second time this year on Nov. 3. Earnings for the 12 months to March 31 will be at least 100 million euros higher than anticipated in the 750 million euros to 770 million euros range, Ryanair said.

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 aircraft photographed from the control tower at London Gatwick. EasyJet