Low-cost airline easyJet has warned it is already experiencing impact on demand from the new Omicron variant of coronavirus as it revealed annual losses of more than £1 bn.

The carrier said it has seen signs that demand is weakening in its current quarter - although it is “too soon to say” what impact the emerging variant will have.

The UK Government has ruled all travellers returning to the UK must now take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. Many countries have also moved to tighten their borders and restrictions are being toughened across Europe.

The airline stated: “It’s too soon to say what impact Omicron may have on European travel and any further short-term restrictions that may result. However, we have prepared ourselves for periods of uncertainty such as this.”

It was revealed the company posted statutory pre-tax losses of £1.04bn for the year to September 30, compared with losses of £1.27bn the previous year, which was the first full-year loss in its 25-year history.

On an underlying basis, pre-tax losses widened from £835m to £1.14 bn.

Despite the current uncertainty, easyJet said it is still hopeful of a recovery to pre-pandemic levels of trading over its current year.

The group said it expects to ramp up its flights programme to around 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the current quarter to the end of December, increasing this to 70 per cent in the three months to March and a return to around 2019 levels in the summer quarter.

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It also stressed it has seen demand accelerate recently, with a “strong performance” for October half-term, the ski season and Christmas.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We have seen an encouraging start to this year, with strong demand returning for peak winter holiday periods coupled with increasing summer demand, with fourth-quarter capacity expected to be close to full-year 2019 levels.”

He added: “We remain mindful that many uncertainties remain as we navigate the winter, but we see a unique opportunity for easyJet to win customers and take market share from rivals in this period.”

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