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EasyJet marches on Moscow in challenge to BA
March 19, 2013
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LONDON: EasyJet Plc’s (EZJ) inaugural flight to Moscow on Monday will see the UK discount carrier go head-to-head with British Airways as it targets a bigger share of Europe’s lucrative business-travel market.

EasyJet will serve Moscow twice-daily from London Gatwick and four times a week from Manchester after winning route rights by guaranteeing a 125 pound ($186) round-trip fare for three years. British Airways’s (BA) cheapest economy ticket costs 311 pounds.

EasyJet, which will serve Moscow’s Domodedovo hub using 180-seat Airbus SAS A320 planes, aims to carry more than 230,000 people on the London route in the first 12 months of operations.

EasyJet, which will serve Moscow’s Domodedovo hub using 180-seat Airbus SAS A320 planes, aims to carry more than 230,000 people on the London route in the first 12 months of operations.

Carolyn McCall, chief executive officer of EasyJet, talks about the launch of the discount carrier’s new route from London to Moscow. She speaks from London’s Gatwick Airport with Mark Barton on Bloomberg Television’s “Countdown.”

“Business between Britain and Russia is buoyant and EasyJet will particularly facilitate smaller companies,” said John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting in London. “There are plenty of Russians with the income and willingness to travel.” While ranked second to Ryanair Holdings (RYA) among Europe’s low-cost airlines, EasyJet has dropped its early no-frills approach in favor of a model that offers ancillary services like lounge access and flexible tickets to draw corporate traffic.

The move comes as network carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and BA-parent IAG SA trim short-haul capacity, dropping 800,000 seats on EasyJet routes in the first quarter alone.

“Moscow is a landmark route,” Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall said in a briefing at Gatwick airport before the departure of flight, adding that bookings have generally exceeded expectations, with “huge” and unanticipated demand for inbound tickets from Russia to the carrier’s London base. The service will also open up a new leisure market, she added.

EasyJet attracted 10 million corporate travelers in 2012, about 16 percent of its total traffic. That proportion will increase to as much as one-third for the Moscow route, it said.

Luton, England-based EasyJet, which will enter Britain’s benchmark FTSE 100 Index for the first time today following a 40 percent jump in its share price so far this year, was chosen by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to operate Moscow flights in October, edging out Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.

Bloomberg

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