Despite having to pay out £15m as a result of the drone chaos at Gatwick airport in the run-up to Christmas, easyJet’s trading outlook for 2019 remains positive.

The British airline is one of the world’s most successful low-cost carriers (LCCs), ranked in the top two airlines in 51 airports, up from 47 in 2017 and operates 979 routes, 117 of which have been added since 2017.

easyJet results

Even though the easyJet suffered directly from the Gatwick drone chaos, its latest trading results – covering its fiscal first-quarter to 31 December 2018 – suggest the company was able to absorb the impact of these losses.

According to its 22 January trading results, total revenue in Q1 increased by 13.7% to £1.29 billion and passenger revenue increased by 12.2% to £1.02m. Passenger numbers rose by 15% to 21.6 million and the total number of delays experienced was also reduced, despite the end-of-year troubles Gatwick.

The company owes some of its recent success to the failings of other airline competitors. In 2018, easyJet announced it had benefitted to the tune of £30m as a consequence of the collapse of Air Berlin and Monarch and £20m as Ryanair cancellations steered passengers towards its rivals.

Mitigating the risk of further drone disruption

In December 2018, 150,000 passengers were affected by diversions and cancellations after drones were reportedly sighted near the runways of Gatwick Airport.

According to its Q1 financial statement, easyJet lost £5m as a result of cancelled flights and £10m relating to customer welfare costs.

Gatwick airport has since spent £5m on new technology and equipment designed to prevent a similar disruption. Anti-drone devices that can jam communication between drones and their operators, and drone detecting radars have also attracted interest. It is hoped airports around the world are now better prepared.

Brexit presents a risk but Europe still lucrative

Thanks to its compact geography, flights within Europe can be achieved in relatively few hours, and so customers are willing to forego comfort for the right price. easyJet has benefited from this increasing cost-awareness, strengthened by the rise of cost-comparison sites such as Skyscanner.

Five of the top 10 LCC markets – the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – were in Europe in 2017 and that pattern is likely to have been replicated in 2018, according to research by GlobalData Travel and Tourism.

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