UK-based LCC easyJet reported what it described as “one of its best winters ever” as it substantially cut its losses in what is traditionally the weaker half of its financial year.

The first half of the year was marked by the initial months of operations from Berlin’s Tegel airport; easyJet picked up the Tegel operations of the bankrupt airberlin and plans to make it a base for a substantial expansion in Germany, especially for German domestic services.

Operations from Tegel are currently proving to be a drag on the rest of the company, with what the UK carrier described as an under-optimized schedule that was being temporarily operated with wet-leased aircraft. However, the carrier added that operations there were being rapidly ramped up to reach the standards of the rest of its network.

For the six months ended March 31, easyJet saw a net loss for the period narrowed to £54 million ($76 million), compared to £192 million for the comparative period last year. First-half revenue increased 19.5% to £2.2 billion, compared to £1.8 billion for 1H 2017.

The company said the first half had been characterized by a positive trading environment and higher load factors across the network. Performance had also been aided by capacity reductions by other airlines on easyJet routes, a reference to the failure of airlines such as Monarch and airberlin. The first-half figures were also aided by the movement of Easter, a popular European holiday period, into 1H, rather than in 2H in 2017.

Passenger numbers for 1H increased by 3 million to 36.8 million; this figure included 0.7 million from the Tegel operations, which launched in January.

Capacity increased 7.8% as easyJet added an additional 1.2 million seats at Tegel. Load factor grew by 0.9 percentage points to 91.1% (91.9% excluding Tegel). Capacity excluding Tegel operations grew 4.6%.

Load factors out of Tegel were considerably below easyJet’s usual levels, at 63.4% for 1H. However, this figure had increased to almost 80% by April, the start of 2H, the company said.

Headline cost per seat, excluding fuel, increased 2.2% to £43.11 (H1 2017: £42.18) and increased 1.6% at constant currency (1.3% excluding Tegel), because of increased loads, inflationary costs and the impact of severe weather (including increased de-icing costs) and greater passenger awareness of the European Union’s compensation rules for delayed flights. These increases were offset by £66 million of cost savings.

The airline is building in more resilience to its operations by increasing predictive maintenance on its aircraft, building an more inventory of spares and raising the number of crews, CEO Johan Lundgren said in an analysts’ teleconference May 15.

Looking ahead to 2H, the carrier said forward bookings were up on last year, with 80% of 3Q and 57% for 2H already booked.

At Tegel, easyJet expects to see a combined headline and non-headline impact within the £160 million previously guided. The headline pre-tax loss for operations from the German capital’s airport is expected to increase to between £75 million and £95 million, because of higher fuel costs, additional security costs and noise tax charges, together with operating smaller wet-leased aircraft than planned. One-off non-headline costs are expected to be significantly better than previously guided at around £60 million, primarily because of savings in aircraft lease costs and better execution of crew and fleet transition.

EasyJet expects a headline pre-tax profit for the financial year to Sept. 30, including the impact of the headline loss from Tegel, to be in the range of £530 million to £580 million, Lundgren said.

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com