Jet2 sinks to £68m loss as passenger numbers plunge

The British airline suffers a 90pc drop in passenger numbers in its busiest season, and warns of halving winter flights

Holiday and airline group Jet2 has slumped to a first half loss and said it remains cautious over the summer 2021 season despite good news on possible coronavirus vaccines.

The Jet2holidays and owner - formerly called Dart Group - sunk to a £68.7m pre-tax loss for the six months to Sep 30, down from a £278m profit for the same period last year.

In what would normally be its busiest period, the airline flew just 990,000 passengers in the half-year, down from 10m a year earlier as plunging demand and restrictions amid the pandemic crippled the aviation sector.

Package holiday passengers slumped to 30,000, down from 2.7m.

Jet2 warned over further losses in the traditionally quieter half of the financial year and cautioned it expects to slash its winter 2020-21 services by half year-on-year.

Philip Meeson, executive chairman, said: "Whilst the recent positive news about a potential vaccine was welcome, we continue our cautious approach to summer 2021."

But he added current seat capacity is close to summer 2019 levels at this stage.

Shares in the group fell 2.4pc to £13.50 but were above £17 at the start of the year.

It comes after rival easyJet earlier this week revealed the first annual loss in its 25-year history as the coronavirus crisis sent it nosediving into the red by £1.27bn.

The Luton-based carrier warned it expects to fly no more than a fifth of planned services this quarter.

Leeds-based Jet2 restarted its flight services in mid-July after the spring lockdown, having originally hoped to resume them in May.

It is axing more than 100 pilots in response to the impact on its services.

The group said it concentrated flights over the summer on financially viable routes, but had to redirect away from mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearics in late July due to quarantine measures.

It then refocused its holiday programme on eastern Mediterranean destinations.

But it has since been curtailed by the second English lockdown and said its "ability to fly in the short-term remains uncertain" with restrictions in place until at least December 2.