easyJet cutting flights from London’s Luton Airport, to shut down base at East Midlands Airport

Saturday, September 5, 2009, 12:33 by Jose Philip

The low-cost carrier easyJet is cutting about one-fifth of its flights from Luton Airport in London and is shifting its focus to Gatwick Airport – the second biggest airport in London and also the second busiest airport in the United Kingdom after Heathrow Airport – and also to airports in Europe.

easyJet cuts flights to Luton airport, London

easyJet cuts flights to Luton airport, London

In a statement, easyJet, based at Luton Airport in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, said it plans to shut down its base at East Midlands Airport in England and the aircraft there would be moved to London’s Gatwick Airport and to airports in France and Spain. This move is a part of the company’s “continued expansion into markets in Europe” where short-haul air travel remains rather strong, easyJet added.

Another reason for deciding to close down its base at the East Midlands Airport is that the airport chiefly serves the leisure-travel segment, according to easyJet. The airline added that it is less focusing on the leisure-travel sector than rival low-cost airlines and that its “business model is geared more towards mainstream airports” like Gatwick Airport.

easyJet said it also plans to cut the number of flight crew based at airports in Bristol, Newcastle, Stansted and Belfast.

The capacity reduction could result in 250 employees losing their jobs with easyJet.

At the same time, easyJet said it would retain its headquarters at Luton Airport – where the airline was established in 1995.

At present, easyJet has 37 planes based at Luton Airport and 16 planes at Gatwick Airport.

The Spain-based company Abertis operates Luton Airport on behalf of Luton Borough Council.

In the statement, easyJet explained that it was compelled to cut the number of aircraft based at Luton Airport because of an increase of 25% in the landing charges at Luton Airport in the last 3 years. And, easyJet’s decision to reduce capacity could lead to loss of abut 100 jobs at Luton Airport.

Andy Harrison, easyJet’s chief executive, said in the statement that he is “deeply disappointed” that Luton Borough Council and Abertis “have not taken a more far-sighted approach, which would have protected jobs at Luton Airport.”

On its part, Luton Airport argued, in a press release, that it had put forward to easyJet a “commercially competitive” offer on landing charges but that the company chose not to accept it.

easyJet said it decided to close its base at East Midlands Airport also because the airport mainly serves the leisure-travel segment. The carrier said it is less focused on the leisure-travel sector than rival low-fare airlines and that its “business model” is directed towards mainstream airports like Gatwick Airport.

The decision by easyJet to reduce its flights from Luton Airport and East Midlands Airport comes about a month after Ryanair, based Dublin, Ireland, cut the number of its services at Manchester Airport from 10 routes to merely 1 route.

Ryanair also has announced that it will also reduce the number of services from London’s Stansted Airport, its biggest base, by around 30% in the winter of 2009.

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