A late Easter has contributed to budget airline easyJet recording a 6.3 per cent year-on-year drop in passenger numbers in March.
Reports also said the entrepreneur behind the “no frills” carrier, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, was planning a foray into the commercial property market to take advantage of low prices.
EasyJet, which operates routes to Grenoble and Geneva from Birmingham, recorded a monthly figure of 3.4 million passengers, down 6.3 per cent on a year ago. That figure was slightly up on February’s figures which saw a 6.8 per cent drop.
The firm said load factor, an indication of how many seats were sold as a percentage of capacity, for March, an indication of how many seats were sold as a percentage of capacity, was 2.8 per cent lower compared to 2008 because the Easter holiday falls in April this year.
In yearly terms, the picture looked rosier with an increase in numbers for the year to March 31 of 11.5 per cent, with a load factor up 1.3 per cent to 84.9 per cent.
EasyJet also announced it had appointed an interim chairman as it seeks to repair the split between its founder, Sir Stelios, and the rest of the board.
The firm announced the resignation of its chairman, Sir Colin Chandler, who will step down on July 1.
Sir David Michels, currently the senior independent director, will serve as interim chairman while the company searches for a replacement for Sir Colin.
BT chairman Sir Michael Rake was also appointed to the board as deputy chairman and will join the firm in the early summer.
Sir Michael arrives amid a row over the speed of easyJet’s expansion plans between Sir Stelios and the rest of the board.
The easyJet founder caused the rift to widen late last year when he refused to back the company’s accounts and said accounting policies were “at odds with current commercial realities and the macro-economic environment”.
The non-executive director also increased his personal stake in the business to almost 27 per cent.
He has pushed for outside non-executive directors to be appointed and Sir Michael’s appointment had his blessing.
He said: “I would like to thank Sir Colin for his leadership and excellent years of service to easyJet. Having participated with other colleagues in these new appointments, I look forward to working more fully with Sir David and welcoming Sir Michael onto the board as we take easyJet into the future.”
Meanwhile, Sir Stelios, who is head of the EasyGroup which spans budget hotels to offices, has said he is planning to create a special vehicle to take advantage of lower prices of commercial property.
He was reported as saying he was “tempted to call the bottom of the property market in London.”
Sir Stelios is looking for property in London to expand easyOffice – a venture that provides temporary working space for small businesses and individuals. He is also looking to buy buildings for his franchise easyHotel chain which currently leases its locations.
Sir Stelios said he plans to pay cash because of the difficulty in finding bank financing and look to leverage the deals later on.
EasyHotel already has six branches, with four in London and one at Heathrow and Luton airports, but Sir Stelios said he would like to double these in the next two years.