Low-cost airline EasyJet roughly halved its losses in the first half, helped by Easter falling earlier than a year ago and strong bookings from customers wanting to escape recent cold weather in Britain and Northern Europe.

Europe's second-largest budget airline reported a pretax loss of £61m for the six months to the end of March, a traditionally loss-making period.

The loss was at the lower end of its guidance of £60-65m and better than an analyst forecast for a loss of £64.5m, according to a Thomson Reuters analyst poll. It made a pretax loss of £112m for the same period a year ago.

The airline makes its profit in its second half, which includes the busy summer holiday period.

EasyJet said its total revenues grew 9.3% to £1.6 billion, while revenue per seat grew 8.6%, better than the 6-8% it previously expected, driven by strong bookings in the run up to Easter.

Capacity on its flights rose by 3.3%, slightly short of its 3.5% forecast, it said, due to the bad weather causing a higher than expected number of cancellations.

EasyJet is still in talks with Europe's Airbus and US rival Boeing about making a significant expansion of its fleet but has yet to make a final decision.

It is keen to buy new, more fuel-efficient jets but since the new models it is looking at, Boeing's 737 Max and Airbus' 320 Neo, are not available until 2017 and 2018, the airline is also negotiating a bridging deal.

It said it was in the final stages of the commercial evaluation of the next generation of short-haul engine technology and in the event that its board backs an order it will make a proposal to shareholders that will cover both the next generation of deliveries, which are likely to be after 2017, and a plan for the bridging period from 2015 to 2017.

"EasyJet expects to deliver improved returns and profitability for the year ending September 30 2013," said EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall.

Since McCall took over in 2010, EasyJet has added flights between top business destinations, introduced flexible tickets and offered allocated seating in an attempt to steal corporate customers from airlines such as IAG's British Airways.