EasyJet cutting it fine with permit for Moscow flights

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The Independent Online

One month before easyJet launches its new routes from London and Manchester to Moscow, the airline still does not have a flight permit from the Russian authorities.

The budget carrier started selling tickets for the flights in January, and although an advertisement on its Facebook page contains the disclaimer "subject to government approval", the airline's own website offers no such warning.

A spokeswoman for the airline said its lack of a flight permit would not put its first flight on the route, planned for 18 March, at risk.

She said: "As with any new route to a new country there are many agreements and permissions that need to be secured with a range of organisations including airports, ground handlers, travel companies, aviation authorities etc. We are well advanced in this process and making good progress – including securing the necessary permits from the Federal Air Transport Agency and reaching a commercial agreement with Transaero.

"EasyJet had a very good meeting with FATA in Moscow recently and is working with them to finalise all the necessary arrangements."

However, a Russian industry insider disputed that, telling the Moscow Times: "EasyJet started sales without having presented any documents to the Federal Air Transportation Agency about pricing policies – in violation of the intergovernmental agreement." Media reports in Russia claim that easyJet's plans are being met with major opposition from Russian competitors, who dislike its cheap prices.

Gazeta reported that EasyJet might not reach an agreement before its first planned flight next month.

Easyjet won the Russian route after beating Virgin Atlantic to take over slots freed up by the takeover of BMI by British Airways. The Civil Aviation Authority, which under an agreement with Russia has the right to decide on two British airlines for the route, said it had picked easyJet as a "distinctly different product" from BA. EasyJet has promised return fares starting at £125.