EasyJet Adds 3.7 Million Passengers to Narrow Ryanair’s Lead

EasyJet Plc, Europe’s second-largest low-cost airline, added 3.7 million passengers last year to take the total to 59.2 million, narrowing the gap to market leader Ryanair Holdings Plc.

EasyJet’s passenger tally increased 6.7 percent in the 12 months, outstripping growth of 4 percent at Dublin-based Ryanair, which added 3.2 million customers for a total of 79.6 million, 20.4 million more than its Luton, England-based rival.

EasyJet Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall has boosted frequencies on key routes while using allocated seats, flexible tickets and corporate agents to grab a bigger slice of business travel. The U.K. airline carried 4.34 million passengers in December, it said in a statement, up 204,000 from a year earlier, as Ryanair boosted its total by 80,000 to 4.7 million.

Aer Lingus Group Plc, Ireland’s No. 2 airline and subject to a takeover bid from Ryanair, carried 9.65 million passengers last year, up 1.5 percent from 2011. The December total jumped by 734,000, or 7.2 percent, according to a statement.

EasyJet, whose stock added 79 percent last year, rose as much as 2.8 percent and traded 2.4 percent higher at 840.50 pence as of 3:01 p.m. in London. Ryanair, which advanced 30 percent in 2012, was priced up 2.1 percent at 5.05 euros.

EasyJet filled 88.9 percent of available seats, compared with a load factor of 82 percent at Ryanair and almost 78 percent at Aer Lingus, which is also based in Dublin.

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