easyJet has today approached Swissair and the French Government to express an interest in acquiring some of the assets of the troubled French airline AOM/Air Liberté. This is part of the airline`s strategy to establish Orly as a major European operating base which will bring domestic and intra-European low-cost airline travel to French consumers.
AOM/Air Liberté forms part of Swissair Group`s debt-ridden group of domestic French airlines, which have experienced serious financial difficulty in the last few months.
easyJet, the fast-growing low-cost point-to-point airline, is interested in acquiring some of the assets of the French airline to establish the Paris airport as a major operating base. easyJet already has base airports at Amsterdam (second-biggest user), Geneva, Liverpool and London Luton and believes that French consumers should not be denied access to the airline`s low-cost flights for domestic and intra-European services.
easyJet is a name already recognised within France - during summer 2001 it will operate up to 13 flights each day into Nice. Within the UK, easyJet operates high-frequency services from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast and believes the same approach can be replicated between Orly and a number of major French cities - such as Nice.
An operation of this nature would need experienced airline workers at Orly, which could safeguard hundreds of jobs in Paris, as well as representing France`s first low-cost airline. For easyJet to maximise the opportunity at Orly, slots would need to be made available to provide a meaningful degree of competition to the incumbent airlines.
As a result, easyJet has today written to Dr Mario Corti, Chief Executive of Swissair; Jean-Claude Gayssot, the French Transport Minister; AOM/Air Liberté; Marine Wendel (which owns 51% of AOM/Air Liberté) and the CGT trade union to explain the proposal.
easyJet currently operates a fleet of 22 Boeing 737 aircraft operating on 35 routes from four main bases across Europe. The airline`s fleet will double in size to 44 Boeing 737 aircraft by mid-2004 and has a current market capitalisation of the same size as Swissair.
Ray Webster, easyJet Chief Executive, said:
“The French population have been denied access to domestic low-cost airline services for too long. The success of other “easy” companies in Paris - easyRentacar and easyEverything - has proved that French consumers are as attracted by the idea of value-for-money services as anywhere else in Europe”.
“We have identified a number of domestic and intra-European routes from Paris, which could support easyJet`s high-frequency strategy - and would need large numbers of skilled workers to get the Paris Orly base up and running”.
“In time, there is no reason why Paris Orly couldn`t have the same number of easyJet flights as our principal base at London Luton - about 100 per day. Slots are currently a problem, but we`re sure we`ll be able to come to an agreement which will enable us to bring the benefits to French travellers, the current employees of AOM/Air Liberté and easyJet.”