EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall has revealed the carrier is in talks with Moscow-based Transaero as it prepares to launch services to the Russian capital.
Speaking at World Travel Market in London, McCall said easyJet was seeking a commercial deal with Transaero, as she defended her decision – announced in June – to close the carrier’s base at Madrid this month.
The Civil Aviation Authority last month awarded easyJet the right to operate twice a day between Gatwick and Moscow, replacing BMI on the route following its takeover by British Airways. EasyJet services will start next year.
The decision was a bitter disappointment to Virgin Atlantic which had bid to operate the route from Heathrow alongside BA.
McCall said: “A lot of people didn’t believe we could get Moscow. It shows we have come a long way.
“London-Moscow is a very established, traditional business route: more than half the passengers will be business travellers. But the CAA would not have awarded it to us if it didn’t think we could serve business passengers from Gatwick.”
She said: “We are mindful that the Russian market is very different [and] Moscow is a different model. We are working with Transaero. We have done a lot of work [in preparation] and we will make sure we get it right.”
Transaero is the former code-share partner of BMI and agreed a code-share deal with Virgin Atlantic in August.
McCall defended easyJet’s withdrawal from Madrid where it based eight aircraft and more than 300 crew until this month, saying: “When we went in [to Madrid] five years ago the market was very different. Spain was not in crisis.”
However, she said: “Spain is an inbound market – 80% of the traffic is coming in when most of our markets are outbound. We still serve Spain very well – we will bring 12 million passengers a year to Spain. But we will base the aircraft elsewhere where they will be more profitable.”