EASYJET has pledged to increase the number of female pilots, setting a new target after receiving an increasing number of applications from women.

It wants 20 per cent of new cadets by 2020 to be female, which it described as a “stretching” target.

Women make up six per cent of easyJet’s new pilot intake, and the airline has 164 female pilots, of whom 62 are captains, around 14 per cent of the world’s total.

The company named an aircraft after renowned aviator Amy Johnson, revealing it had received over 600 applications from women since launching a campaign a year ago.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “I am delighted to be unveiling this specially-named aircraft after one of the most accomplished female aviators in history.

“Fifty years ago almost all professions were dominated by men and over the last five decades there has been significant progress in almost every sector with women entering and attaining senior positions in professions like law, medicine, education, and politics.

“However, the proportion has not changed for pilots and it is hard to think of another high-profile profession where women are so under-represented.

“We would like to understand why this is and to do what we can to redress the balance.

“We have been encouraged by the success of our Amy Johnson initiative since we launched it in October 2015 and the results so far suggest that the demand from women to become pilots is there.

“We will be recruiting around 50 annually, which will really start to change the face of our industry.”