An increase of 200,000 business travellers in the three months to the end of December compared to the same period in 2010 helped easyJet make a strong start to 2012.

The low cost carrier said today (January 26) this had led to a “strong improvement” in its unit revenues – the average price per seat – which rose by 9.2% to £51.83 per seat.

The airline’s success in its aim of attracting more business travellers led to a increase of 10% in its share price on the London Stock Exchange when the interim figures for its first financial quarter were released this morning.

The Luton-based carrier also reported a 16.7% rise in revenue to £763m and a 8.1% rise in passenger numbers in Q1.

Carolyn McCall, the carriers’s CEO, said the results indicated a “strong start” to 2012.

But easyJet said it expected its first half losses to be around £140m-160m, roughly the same level as the 2010-11 first half loss of £153m.

easyJet said in its statement that performance had been helped by a strong Swiss franc and no disruptions to services because of snow, as happened at Christmas 2010.

With about 70% of seat for the first half of the financial year now booked,  the airline said it expected the percentage increase in revenue per seat to continue at the Q1 Level.

It therefore expected to recover “most” of the extra £100m it expeted to pay for fuel in H1.

McCall said: “easyJet has made a strong start to the year. This is due to firm control of costs, the strength of easyJet’s network, tight capacity discipline and pricing actions taken in the second half of last financial year.

“The good performance in the quarter has meant we are cautiously confident in our outlook for the business.”

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