Go fuels low-cost air travel war with expansion plan

GO, THE low-cost airline launched by British Airways earlier this year, will today announce a major expansion in staffing levels and its route network.

The carrier is expected to outline plans to expand its workforce by as much as 50 per cent and begin flying to more destinations in direct competition with other low-cost operators such as Ryanair, easyJet and Debonair.

Barbara Cassini, Go's American-born chief executive, has set herself a target of breaking even within two years and making a profit by the end of the third. Industry observers believe that the explosive growth in the low-cost sector of the market, as passengers trade down, has encouraged Go to bring forward its expansion plans.

The airline currently operates from Stansted to six destinations - Rome, Milan, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Bologna and Edinburgh - with a fleet of Boeing 737s and 200 staff. Its lowest return fare is pounds 100 on European destinations and pounds 70 to Edinburgh.

It faces low-cost competition on only two of these routes - Debonair flys to Rome and easyJet operates an Edinburgh service. But rivals believe it is poised to unveil plans to launch more services to Italy, Scandinavia and Germany in head-on competition.

Ryanair flys from Stansted to Pisa, Venice and Rimini in Italy and Stockholm, Oslo and Malmo in Scandinavia - all destinations that could be attractive to Go. Go refused to comment on its expansion plans ahead of today's announcement.

But Tim Jeans, Ryanair's sales and marketing director, said: "There is clearly a big push in the low-fare sector of the market and Go would not want to miss out on the wave."

Its rivals, easyJet and Debonair, failed in a High Court attempt to block the launch of Go in May, but they have been allowed to bring a case claiming that the airline represents unfair competition because it is being underwritten by BA.

A Go spokesman denied that it was being unfairly subsidised, saying BA had given it a one-off payment of pounds 25m and no more.

Meanwhile Ryanair announced the launch of a service from Glasgow to Beauvais, near Paris, the only direct flight between the two cities.