EasyJet stops East Midlands flights next month

Budget airline easyJet today announced cuts that will see it pull out of one airport and reduce capacity by 20 per cent at another.

The low-cost carrier confirmed that after a 90-day consultation with staff it will close its base at East Midlands Airport and cut capacity at its home base at London Luton Airport by 20 per cent.

On January 5, the airline will stop its operations at East Midlands Airport.

All 107 affected cabin crew and pilots who requested to transfer to other easyJet bases will be accommodated, a spokesman said.

He said passengers booked to travel after January 5 will be emailed over the next few days and offered either a free transfer to another easyJet flight, a free transfer to a bmibaby flight, or a full refund.

The spokesman said easyJet plans to move the capacity to more profitable airports, and is still committed to an overall growth plan of 7.5 per cent per year over the medium term.

He also confirmed the carrier will reduce capacity at its base at London Luton Airport by 20 per cent.

The spokesman said this followed airport operator Abertis' and Luton Borough Council's failure to recognise the commercial realities of the recession and address rising airport costs, which made the airport no longer competitive.

The 20 per cent reduction will see the airline cease to operate routes to Athens, Cagliari and Vienna from Luton, as well as reduced frequencies on routes including Alicante, Dortmund, Edinburgh, Geneva, Glasgow, Nice and Paris.

The spokesman said the company had managed to achieve a reduction of 20 per cent in its flying programme, whilst protecting its cabin crew and pilots from potential redundancy, by flying more flights on behalf of other airports and reducing the number of services from other bases to Luton.

The number of based aircraft at Luton will remain at 16, the spokesman said, but the departing passenger volumes will fall to 1.9m, down from 2.6m in 2008.

The strategy is also hoped to protect the airline's position at Luton.

Following today's announcement, East Midlands Airport managing director Penny Coates said: "We are naturally disappointed to hear that easyJet will leave the East Midlands region in 2010, but our passengers will be pleased to hear that all of the routes operated by easyJet are still available with other low cost carriers.

"That's why we welcome the new routes recently announced by bmibaby and the option for passengers to easily transfer flights already booked with easyJet to bmibaby.

"We will continue to work with easyJet to ensure all of our customers experience minimal disruption to any bookings and hope the many loyal passengers that have travelled with easyJet from East Midlands Airport, will continue to choose other carriers from the airport.

"Not only will the airport continue to offer the same choice of destinations but passengers will also benefit from new routes with bmibaby and Jet2.com next year."

EasyJet operated 10 routes from East Midlands Airport - Prague, Nice, Venice, Faro, Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Ibiza, Palma and Geneva.

The airport said it had not lost any destinations and all 10 routes will continue to be operated by other low-cost carriers.