Last December Aer Lingus announced it would take the bold step of establishing a base at Gatwick. From London’s second airport it would serve various leisure and business destinations in mainland Europe (see online news December 19, 2008).
The new routes are being phased in over the next few months with flights to Munich, Zurich and Vienna expected to be of most interest to business people. Of these three, only Zurich is currently served from Gatwick but this British Airways flight ceases at the end of March.
Today Easyjet says it will begin competing on these same three routes starting on April 2. Aer Lingus’ services also start in April. But they will be phased in with Zurich and Vienna commencing on April 20 and Zurich following on April 26.
Says Aer Lingus’ corporate affairs director Enda Corneille, “We welcome the competition because, at the end of the day, our customers will be the winners. They’ll be able to fly with Aer Lingus in the knowledge they will get a better price at a far better departure time and enjoy a more superior onboard experience.”
But in truth the arrival of Easyjet will benefit all passengers because they gain a better choice of schedules. Canny travellers are likely to purchase one-way tickets to mix and match each airline’s flights choosing the best for their needs.
That’s been the experience with business people taking flights between Manchester and Barcelona and there’s no reason to suspect it will be any different in the case of the Gatwick routes.
Let me explain. Manchester-Barcelona was previously in the hands of Monarch Airlines but is now facing competition from rival budget carrier Bmibaby. Since the latter appeared on the scene, total passenger numbers have risen.
Tim Jeans, MD of Monarch told Business Traveller, “For a point-to-point business route to succeed you must have the right schedule. We have a flight leaving Manchester at 0800 which, because of this timing, means we pick up a substantial volume of business traffic.
“When Bmibaby arrived on the route we actually found our traffic going up by more than the extra capacity being added. Why? Because Bmibaby flies in the afternoon so its schedules complemented ours.”
A glance at the schedules reveals that smart travellers will find no advantage in the case of Vienna as both Easyjet and Aer Lingus depart at roughly the same time.
But in the case of Munich (which Aer Lingus will service once a day) and Zurich (served once daily) the Easyjet schedule (one daily flight) provides a real alternative. For Munich, Aer Lingus’ schedules call for early and late flights whereas Easyjet departs Gatwick at lunchtime and returns at teatime. For Zurich, Aer Lingus departs at 1240 and returns at 1600 while Easyjet’s timings are out at 1650 and back at 2005.
Report by Alex McWhirter