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For the second year running budget airline easyJet has been hit by the high cost of fuel, but the British airline said it was seeing an increase in business passengers as C-level executives slum it on the low cost airline to keep their budgets in line with company expectations.

EasyJet has been targeting business travellers throughout the downturn using what it describes as "business oriented channels" and has seen an increase in business passengers by 15 per cent. In a statement easyJet said one benefit of this strategy is that business passengers tend to pay 20 per cent more for their fare as they often have to book at the last minute.

EasyJet reported that pre tax profits for the period to 30 September 2009 were £54.7 million. For the same period in 2008 it reported profits of £110.2m, but the airline did say that its sales have increased by 13 per cent. Commenting on the state of the airline industry easyJet said that in the last 20 years the airline industry has grown by 4.5 per cent every year, but in the last 12 months it has shrunk by five per cent. Rivals Air Lingus has reported this week that it expects to make further redundancies. EasyJet has cut 28 routes from its itinerary during the credit crunch.

EasyJet said the high cost of fuel and the way it buys its fuel were impacting its profits.

EasyJet flies from Gatwick airport in Sussex and said in its annual report that it welcomed the recent news that airport operator BAA is selling the airport off due to regulatory pressure. "The sale highlights the need for tough and effective regulation to protect airlines and passengers from the new owners exploiting their market power," easyJet said.

EasyJet has largely outsourced its IT services, with Savvis and Alfred McAlpine being major suppliers to the budget airline. Last year it introduced unified communications in a deal with ntl: Telewest Business and has invested in the Microsoft Azure platform this year so that easyJet staff can carry out transactions for travellers using mobile devices. Services available include excess budget transactions and seat upgrades, easyJet believe this will reduce queues.