Thursday, September 14, 2017

EasyJet Beats Ryanair to Long-Haul Deals From Gatwick

EasyJet struck a deal with Norwegian Air Shuttle and Canada’s WestJet allowing its passengers to transfer onto their long-haul flights at London Gatwick airport.

Europe’s second-biggest discount airline is exploring similar accords with Middle Eastern and East Asian carriers, and plans to extend the service to some of its other major bases, according to a statement Wednesday. Customers will also be able to transfer between its own flights at Gatwick.

EasyJet is adding long-haul links before bigger low-cost rival Ryanair Holdings, which has yet to implement deals with Norwegian Air, Air Europa and IAG SA’s Aer Lingus, and offers transfers between its own flights only in Italy. The “Worldwide by EasyJet” service will be available where there is a 2 1/2 hour gap between flights, and planes won’t be held for transfer passengers.

People will be required to collect their own bag off the carousel at Gatwick at a cost of 15 pounds ($20) and hand them in for loading onto the next flight. While the plan, which goes live today, is “constructive,” EasyJet “will need to ensure its Gatwick punctuality becomes more resilient,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Damian Brewer said in an investor note.

Almost 200,000 EasyJet customers already self-connect between its flights at Gatwick -- amounting to about 1 percent of the total -- indicating the appetite for a more formal arrangement, according to the company. It doesn’t have data on people linking up with onward services provided by other airlines.
Milan, Geneva

In the event of a delay Gatwick will put passengers on the next available onward flight, Luton, England-based EasyJet said, adding that the through-tickets bookable via its website will be priced at the same level as fares for individual legs.

Easyjet is confident it can “profitably access a major new pool of customers without undermining its operating model and punctuality,” Chief Commercial Officer Peter Duffy said. The service could be broadened to other major bases with the requisite baggage-transfer capabilities, including Milan Malpensa, Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Barcelona, with at least one more airline or airport likely to be added this year, he said.

The airline will also sell standalone tickets on behalf of other airlines on its website for a fee, with Scottish regional airline Loganair set to be the first to utilize that service next month.

Ryanair’s long-haul transfer plans, originally scheduled to be introduced this summer, have yet to be implemented, with the Irish carrier citing the technical challenge of connecting different software systems. The company has also begun third-party ticket sales on its website, initially with Air Europa.

EasyJet shares were trading 1.6 percent higher at 1,213 pence as of 10:23 a.m. in London, taking gains this year to 20 percent. Ryanair was little changed.

(Thomas Seal and Christopher Jasper - Bloomberg Business News)

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