EasyJet Plc, Europe’s second-biggest discount carrier, said it expects to narrow its first-half loss, after increasing capacity and passenger numbers in the three months through December.

The loss before tax in the six months to March 31 will be between 10 million pounds ($15 million) and 30 million pounds, down from 53 million pounds a year earlier, the Luton, England- based airline said in a statement today.

EasyJet has sought to win passengers from network rivals by expanding its presence at key airports such as London Gatwick and targeting corporate travelers with add-ons such as allocated seats and flexible-fares. The carrier attracted 12 million business people in the financial year through September, sharpening competition against airlines such as Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

“We further strengthened our network” in the first quarter “adding around 500,000 seats, the majority of which are from airports where EasyJet has a number one or number two position,” Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall said in the statement.

EasyJet shares rose 3.7 percent to 1,821 pence at 8:20 a.m. in London, taking the advance to 15 percent in the past 12 months and giving the company a market value of 7.2 billion pounds.

The airline increased passenger numbers 4.1 percent to 14.9 million in the first quarter ended Dec. 31, outpacing a 2.9 percent gain in seats flown. Revenue per seat climbed 0.8 percent to 56.16 pounds over the period. Cost per seat including fuel dropped 2 percent on a reported basis.

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 Robert Valpuesta, Thomas Mulier

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Photo Credit: An EasyJet A319 plane sits at Ciampino Airport in Italy. Christopher Doyle / Flickr