EasyJet posts record loss on weak pound

London - EasyJet had a record loss in the winter travel season as the weak pound inflated expenses in mainland Europe and it slashed fares to hang on to passengers amid a continent-wide price war.

The carrier placed an order for 30 new Airbus SE single-aisle jets to boost future capacity.

The adjusted pretax loss swelled to £212m in the fiscal first half through March 31 from £21m a year earlier, Luton, England-based EasyJet said in a statement on Tuesday. Analysts had predicted a shortfall of £176m.

Sterling’s slide following last summer’s Brexit vote wiped £82m from EasyJet’s earnings, while revenue per seat, a measure of fares, slumped almost 10%. The discounting drive ate up savings from lower fuel costs and came as demand remained subdued on some routes following a spate of terrorist attacks on European cities and tourist centers.

“Bookings for the summer are ahead of last year, showing that demand to fly remains strong and reflects growing evidence that consumers are prioritising expenditure on flights and holidays,” EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall said in the release. The fare decline is also set to slow, with a projected low single digit decline in per-seat sales this quarter.

Company expectations for the full year are in line with the current market consensus, McCall said. Analysts predict a pretax profit of about £372m for fiscal 2017, based on the average of 21 forecasts collected by Bloomberg.

Buying the Airbus A321neo planes will give EasyJet a fleet of the European manufacturer’s largest, newest narrow-bodies. The long-awaited order, based on the conversion of existing options, has a value of $3.8bn at list prices.

EasyJet said it remains on track to source an air operating certificate located in mainland Europe this summer. The carrier may need the flying rights to carry on serving routes within the European Union once Britain exits the bloc.

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