Easyjet has announced plans to stop flying from East Midlands airport and reduce flights from London Luton airport by 20 per cent. The airline blames rising costs and taxes for the move, with the planes to be moved to “more profitable airports”, mostly in continental Europe.
Flights to and from East Midlands up to the end of 2009 will be unaffected, including the Christmas and New Year period. The operation at Luton will continue as usual until further announcements.
Luton in particular has been blamed, in a statement released by Easyjet, for its “failure to recognise the commercial realities of the recession and that Easyjet has opportunities to move capacity to more attractive locations.” The airline says that airport costs at Luton have risen by 25 per cent over the past three years.
London Luton airport commented: “We regret that Easyjet has chosen not to take up the improved commercial terms on offer from the airport, which are highly competitive and which reflect the external cost pressures London Luton airport has had to face over recent years. We will continue to work closely with easyJet in what remains a substantial and important business partnership.”
Meanwhile, Easyjet’s base in the East Midlands has had three aircraft for many years, but the airline prefers to move these to “higher priority markets” for the airline.
Penny Coates, managing director for East Midlands airport’s, said: “We’ve already had very positive indications from other low cost airlines that they will fill this small gap, including bmibaby who have served the East Midlands region for 45 years.” Easyjet’s proposals follow the announcement that Jet2 will start flights from the airport next year.
Andy Harrison, Easyjet’s chief executive, said: “Easyjet is a pan-European airline. We are one of only a few airlines expecting to make a profit this year. A critical part of our success has been optimising the allocation of our aircraft across our 19 European bases. This means responding to airports with uncompetitive costs, as well as moving swiftly to seize opportunities as competitors retreat.”
Harrison also blamed the rise in Airport Passenger Duty (APD) for the cuts. “The rise in APD hits regional airports hardest and increases the pressure to move aircraft to mainland Europe. The Government seems to think that APD is a free lunch. It isn’t; it costs jobs in the UK.”
Luton is one of Easyjet’s largest bases, flying 4.7 million passengers a year with 16 aircraft, while at East Midlands the airline currently carries around 0.7 million passengers a year to Prague, Nice, Venice, Faro, Barcelona, Alicante, Malaga, Ibiza, Palma and Geneva.
Easyjet has seen an increase in passengers, despite the recession, with 4.7 per cent more flying in August 2009 compared to 2008. The airline still plans to grow its overall capacity by around 7.5 per cent over the coming year.
Report by Sara Turner