The acrimonious departure of Stelios Haji-Ioannou from easyJet’s board could lead to the low-cost carrier dropping the word “easy” from its name.
The airline has already drawn up contingency plans if it cannot find a resolution to the bitter dispute with the founder, Haji-Ioannou.
“You would expect us to have looked at this and we have. We do not want to lose the ‘easy’ name but if you are facing a flood you put up flood barriers,” a board member told The Times newspaper.
The company could until recently have revived Go, the name used by the low-cost airline set up by former British Airways executive Barbara Cassani. Easyjet bought Go in 2002 but sold the brand last year for $1m (£688,000).
The easyJet founder resigned from the board on Friday, accusing the chief executive Andy Harrison of pursuing a reckless expansion programme and buying too many aircraft.
“I have felt for a long time that the management is pursuing the wrong strategy for the expansion of the business. The share price has been flat for a decade and there have been no dividends. How can you buy 200 aircraft with shareholders’ money and create no wealth for shareholders,” Stelios said.
The company has refuted the claim, saying Stelios agreed to all aircraft deals and the commercial strategy along with the rest of the board. Harrison has defended himself by pointing out that easyJet was one of the few airlines to remain profitable during the recession.
Company insiders say his resignation may be linked to a court case next month over the use of the easy brand.
An agreement that dates from the company’s stock market debut a decade ago states that it can only earn one-quarter from selling non-airline products, such as car hire, accommodation and food.
Stelios said his resignation was not linked to the brand dispute. “It is a completely separate issue,” he said. “This is about aircraft, not the brand.”
The founder said he had decided to quit ahead of a board meeting next month at which he expected more aircraft deliveries to be discussed.
Stelios, who set up easyJet in 1995, still controls 38% of the group when his own shareholding is added to that of his family.