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easyJet to toughen up on route network

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Chief executive of easyJet Carolyn McCall has warned of an industry „shake-out“, claiming that it was inevitable that airlines, including her own, would examine route networks as profit margins narrow.

In particular the carrier planned to be more strict with routes that were not performing well economically. With the cost of fuel rapidly rising, she mentioned the airline would be ruthless on eliminating low- performing routes and that customers should be prepared for increasing fares. She added, „you will see us being much more brutal about what routes work and what routes don't,“ in reference to a decision by easyJet to pull out of Helsinki, „we're going to be very, very tough about routes that aren't working.“

Despite this, McCall said easyJet intends to grow its position in three key strongholds – London, Geneva and Paris. The airline aims to employ 15 people to be based in the UK, France and Switzerland, to work directly with travel buyers at corporations as well as travel management companies. She revealed that the airline is focusing on the corporate travel market as a priority for growth by introducing business-friendly flexible tickets, selling tickets to multinational companies and recruiting its first corporate sales team.

With about 18% of easyJet's 50 mi­llion annual passengers being business travellers, McCall expressed ‘nearly one in five of our passengers are business travellers and we've done that without doing anything to attract them – they've found us’, it makes sense to focus on business travellers.

Following a five-month trial selling flexible fares through a corporate booking agent, easyJet intends to offer premium tickets on its website that allow business travellers to switch between flights within a four-week window, check in luggage for free and board aircraft early. But the airline ruled out plans to launch business class seats. McCall insisted that allocated seating was „not a first level priority“ and ruled out introducing business-class seats: *„We don't believe in that. It's complicated and it's not egalitarian. We're a very egalitarian airline.“ * Furthermore, easyJet has launched a new route; a five-hour journey from London to the Jordanian capital of Amman, a thrice-weekly service which is at the outer edge of its target range. The new route certainly is a milestone for easyJet, being the longest flight the company provides at 5 hours long. With the cost of tickets costing £106, chief executive Caroline McCall said flights to Amman were now ‘easy and affordable’.

No doubt, launching the new route to Amman is a risk for easyJet – especially as its rival airline BMI had to halt a brand-new service to Tripoli when Libya erupted in flames. McCall said that easyJet was monitoring the situation and would not fly anywhere it did not consider safe: „People in many countries are demonstrating about things – look at Trafalgar Square However, Jordan has made a determined effort to market itself as a safe destination, and attractions such as Petra make it a popular country for UK tourists. This new route between London and Amman is a great example of us making it easy and affordable for people to visit great destinations. Jordan has a rich history and diverse range of attractions.“ She said.

However, one thing easyJet doesn’t seem to have considered is whether potential customers will be willing to travel for 5 hours on a no-frills airline, so whether or not this new implemented route will bring any financial benefit for easyJet; only time will tell.

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