EasyJet plans to sell 100% of seats on the Net

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The Independent Online

EasyJet, the low-cost airline which intends to float on the stock market next month, is set to become the first carrier to take seat bookings exclusively on the internet.

EasyJet, the low-cost airline which intends to float on the stock market next month, is set to become the first carrier to take seat bookings exclusively on the internet.

Ray Webster, easyJet's chief executive, said that by spring next year, the aim was for 100 per cent of the airline's tickets to be sold over the Web. At present 80 per cent of easyJet's 5.5 million passengers book online.

The Luton-based airline estimates that by cutting out travel agents and teams of telesales agents it can make savings of 30 per cent compared with airlines which sell tickets through conventional routes.

EasyJet is also drawing up plans to launch more services from Stansted airport if it is unable to settle its dispute over landing charges with the operator of Luton airport, Barclays bank. The current landing charge per passenger is around £1.80 but Luton is proposing to increase this to about £7.50. The airline's other two airport hubs are Liverpool and Geneva.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the son of a Greek shipping magnate who founded easyJet five years ago, plans to float around 25 per cent of the airline. The offer is expected to value easyJet at about £500m and raise upwards of £100m in new money. The funds will be used to help purchase new Boeing 737 aircraft and provide a financial cushion against future oil price or currency shocks.

At present easyJet operates a network of 28 routes between 18 European cities using a fleet of 18 aircraft. But by 2004 the airline will be operating a fleet of 44 Boeing 737s.

After the flotation, the Haji-Ioannou family will own around 65 per cent of the airline and the management and staff a further 10 per cent. There will be no offer of shares to retail investors. The pathfinder prospectus is due to be published at the end of this month and share dealings are due to begin in the last week of November.

Mr Webster said Easyjet had decided against a retail share offer because it would only be able to meet demand from 30,000 private investors at most.

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