It’s 20 years since the UK’s first budget airline, Easyjet, announced its first routes. Now dozens of flights go to and from Gatwick Airport each day.
Following the lead of Irish company Ryanair, Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s company launched flight EZY 121 from Luton to Glasgow with passengers paying just £29 - a price lauded at the time by the owner as: “as affordable as a pair of jeans”.
Now synonymous with low-cost travel, the fleet’s iconic orange livery was emblazoned with the telephone booking number. Modern day Easyjet flights instead carry the web address, a change that illustrates changes to traveler buying habits over the past two decades.
Britain’s biggest carrier by market share, Easyjet has 243 planes, flying 788 routes, and expanding its coverage from its domestic origins to cover most of Europe as well as making inroads into Iceland and Egypt.
Cut-price travel has come a long way - nowadays, online booking via the likes of Skyscanner and Tripadvisor has become commonplace forcing traditional airlines forced to make their own prices more competitive.
Budget travel isn’t without its critics, of course, as ‘extras’ randing from inflight meals to printing of your boarding pass form a larger part of the overall cost - indeed, for £31, Belfast company sendmybag.com will transport your luggage to Spain for you.
But with new companies such as Wizz Air and Norwegian Airlines encroaching on their territory, Easyjet has seen the need for a better service, attracting business passengers with allocated seating and generally aiming to improve punctuality. It won’t just be the wet summer which has seen its profits up by 20 per cent from 2014 to £700M.
And imitation is proving to be the best form of flattery with Ryanair introducing its ‘Always Getting Better’ initiative, with allocated seating and a free second piece of free luggage. As Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “If I’d only learned that being nice was good for business I’d have done it years ago.”
With Easyjet and its competitors arguably transforming airtravel the real winners in the battle for the skies in the last two decades have been the traveling public.
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