EasyJet to boost routes from Gatwick

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The Independent Online

EasyJet is to expand its operations from Gatwick to business destinations, stepping up its rivalry with British Airways.

The low-cost carrier, better known for leisure travel, announced yesterday it intends to grow its operations at Gatwick by 10 per cent.

EasyJet will add a three-times daily service to Glasgow international airport and increase frequencies on six major European routes - Madrid, Milan, Cologne, Athens, Berlin and Amsterdam. It recently added three other routes: Milan Malpensa, Marrakech and Split.

Gatwick has been easyJet's biggest base for the past two years and accounts for 18 per cent of Gatwick's capacity. This summer it will fly up to half a million passengers from the South-east airport each month.

Andy Harrison, the chief executive, said: "EasyJet has grown dramatically at Gatwick over the last few years by offering its familiar combination of low fares with care and convenience and has grown Gatwick to be our biggest single airport base.

"Given the range of services we now offer... it's not surprising that BA's passengers are flocking to easyJet in record numbers and today's announcement will strengthen further our position at Gatwick."

EasyJet said BA's share of capacity at Gatwick has declined since 2002 from 47 per cent to 38 per cent. However, BA retorted that if its franchise operator, GB Airways, was included, its Gatwick short-haul capacity had grown by 5.5 per cent over that period to 46 per cent.

EasyJet also trumpeted its services for business people - who make up almost a third of its customers - including an internet check-in for Gatwick and some other airports.

A BA spokesman said: "We are confident that we offer more to the business traveller than easyJet."

Separately, it emerged easyJet cabin crews had rejected a pay offer worth at least 8.5 per cent over two years.

Conciliatory statements were put out by unions as well as the company, raising hopes that the dispute could be settled without strike action.