EasyJet starts Moscow flights as it enjoys FTSE share boost
Budget airline is promoted to blue-chip roster as it launches new route to Russia
EASYJET is reaching new heights. The budget airline enjoyed a huge boost in its share price yesterday after it joined the FTSE 100 list of top UK companies. At the same time, it announced its first Russian route, a twice-daily flight to Moscow from Gatwick.
The no-frills carrier won the right to operate a second UK service to Moscow alongside British Airways, over a rival bid from Virgin Atlantic, after promising the Civil Aviation Authority that flights will cost no more than £125 for the first three years.
The Independent reports that, anticipating business opportunities afforded by next year's Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup, trade minister Lord Green said: "Improved air links are vital for British exporters looking to expand into Russia."
He added: "Russia is currently our fastest-growing major export market and its recent accession to the World Trade Organisation is making it easier for UK businesses to trade and invest there."
The route is EasyJet's 100th to operate from Gatwick and its first to Russia since it was founded by Sir Stelious Haji-Ioannou in 1995. It anticipates carrying more than 300,000 passengers between Gatwick and Moscow's Domededovo airport each year.
Visiting Gatwick to celebrate the new flight, aviation minister Simon Burns said: "[The flight] shows the network of London airports can bring in new routes for the benefit of business and tourist passengers."
EasyJet's chief executive Carolyn McCall, who hopes also to operate flights from Manchester to Russia, dismissed worries that the Russian economy might slow down just as her firm bought in. She said: "I think we've demonstrated our business model succeeds even when times are tough."
The airline's value hit £4.2bn yesterday as its share price rose to £10.68. Its share value has more than doubled over the last 12 month, despite warnings against expansion from Haji-Ioannou, who remains a 37 per cent shareholder. ·