EasyJet adds new European destinations and aircraft

The no-frills airline easyJet is adding more destinations to the list of European cities it flies to from the UK, this time into France and Spain.

The company will start flying to three airports - Marseilles and Toulouse in France and Bilbao in Spain - out of London's Gatwick airport from 26 October at prices starting from £40.98 for a return ticket.

The move brings the number of routes the airline flies to out of Gatwick to 17 - the same number of routes that it offers from Luton airport.

It said yesterday that more expansion was likely both of the number of routes it offers and of its fleet. It plans to add as many as five new aircraft at its three London airports over the next 12 months.

Ray Webster, chief executive, said: "Our network development plans are proceeding well ... we are currently in the advanced stage of negotiations with airports across Europe which will provide us with a range of exciting new expansion opportunities."

Much of the growth, it said, would come from Luton. It plans to increase its operation there by at least two aircraft as well as adding more routes.

"Having focused on other growth priorities in the last few years, such as Gatwick and Paris, it is now time to expand the benefits of the easyJet business model to millions more passengers in the Luton catchment," Mr Webster said.

The announcement came a day after Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the Greek entrepreneur who founded the no-frills airline, said he had sold another £20m worth of his shares. The move, designed to help fund Mr Haji-Ioannou's new ventures, leaves him with a stake of about 18 per cent in the business - down from about 25 per cent since the firm floated.

"As I have been consistently saying for a while, from time to time, I will be selling a bit of my past to finance my future. As I am working on the launch of four new ventures (easyBus, easyPizza, easyDorm and easyCruise), I have to rebalance my portfolio between cash, listed equities, unlisted companies and risky start-ups," he said.