easyJet founder talks tough

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The Independent Online
At just 30, Stelios Haji-Ioannou represents the next link in Europe's line of populist airline entrepreneurs - and may even surpass his predecessors Sir Freddie Laker and Richard Branson for sheer publicity- seeking gall.

Suing British Airways appears to comes with the territory. Like Sir Freddie and Mr Branson before him, Mr Haji-Ioannou is poised for a bitter battle with the dominant carrier.

After seeing easyJet Airline, his garish orange-painted carrier based at Luton airport, grab attention and at least some passengers since it started in 1995, BA is going ahead with its own low-cost carrier at Stansted.

Mr Haji-Ioannou is ready for the fight and is already talking to the European Commission about limiting the amount of capital the new airline's chief executive can get from BA. "The Commission should say Barbara Cassani has to go home if she loses her share capital," he says.

It's not as if Mr Haji-Ioannou himself is short of cash. His father, Greek shipping magnate Loucas Haji-Ioannou, is estimated to be worth $730m (pounds 442m). The son maintains homes in Athens and Monte Carlo - which he prefers to Luton. "I don't really like the weather," he says.

He is casual in appearance and has stamped that image on easyJet, which bills its flights as "the price of a pair of jeans".

But in conversation, he's intensely serious. Business, it's clear, is in his blood. "It's hard to distinguish when business finishes and pleasure starts," he says - a word of warning to BA.