easyJet faces a tough summer as the downturn bites, underlining the need for restricting the size of its fleet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou said at World Economic Forum in Davos.
The budget airline founder and former chairman said he welcomed last week’s quarterly results but remained pessimistic on prospects for the year ahead, and reiterated his on-going differences with the boardroom over its plans to grow the fleet rather than focus on potential future dividends.“I’m very worried about next summer,” he said, pointing to a rising unemployment rate that will hit travellers’ budgets over the peak holiday season, as well as the pound’s weakness against the dollar.
“It’s always dangerous to drive a car by looking at the rear-view mirror. We’re looking at the quarter ended December and that’s history now - revenue went well but it’s a different environment now,” he said.
“We have significant dollar costs and no dollar revenues. I still believe the board should push the right buttons to keep the fleet at 170 aircraft.”
easyJet was dealt another blow with news that its chief executive Andy Harrison had sold 400,000 shares in the company, worth £1.3 million, in a move that was believed to be linked to his divorce. This leaves him with 438,598.
The warning from Stelios Haji-Iannou, the group’s founder, also knocked the share price. Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Sir Stelios said that he was “very worried” about summer bookings because of rising unemployment.
Last week easyJet said that total revenue for the period to December rose to £550 million, from £418 million a year earlier as the number of passengers rose from 9.1 million to 10.1 million. Total revenue per seat jumped by 23 per cent from £36.90 to £45.57.