easyJet’s Moscow route kills Heathrow dominance; Norwegian establishes London LGW base

UK CAA award route to easyJet at Gatwick

Orange Square: The UK CAA decision to award the route to easyJet at Gatwick is a nasty shock to the favourite, Virgin Atlantic, and further reduces the dominance of London Heathrow.

London Gatwick Airport’s biggest and fifth-biggest airlines, easyJet and Norwegian, are announcing big developments from spring 2013. A surprising development at the London airport will be easyJet’s introduction of a route to Moscow Domodedovo after the low-cost airline won the bid over favourite contender Virgin Atlantic as well as British Airways. The generally highly regulated Russian market has only really seen European low-cost traffic of note from Germany, Spain and Italy where germanwings and Vueling serve Moscow airports and WindJet did so prior to its demise.

This is the second route to Russia from London Gatwick after Aeroflot/Rossiya’s St Petersburg service. In the same way that all three Moscow airports will offer flights to London from the start of the winter scheduling season at the end of this week, the UK CAA decision to award the route to easyJet at Gatwick reduces the dominance of London Heathrow by giving Moscow access to another London airport and its catchment area, but the decision not to go for Virgin Atlantic at the same time further erodes Heathrow’s hub status.

Airline Origin Destination WF WS
British Airways London Heathrow (LHR) Moscow Domodedovo (DME) 21 4,830
Aeroflot Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) London Heathrow (LHR) 21 3,360
easyJet London Gatwick (LGW) Moscow Domodedovo (DME) 14 2,520
Transaero Moscow Domodedovo (DME) London Heathrow (LHR) 7 1,148
Transaero Moscow Vnukovo (VKO) London Heathrow (LHR) 7 847
Source: Innovata data for w/c 1 April 2013 and easyJet    WF: Weekly Frequencies  WS: Weekly Seats

Although easyJet’s 360 daily seats in each direction on the route is more than Transaero’s 285 daily seats offered, Virgin Atlantic would still have offered slightly more seats in economy class, as well as premium cabins.

In its announcement of the new route, easyJet highlights its lowest fare of £125/€155 return – roughly the same cost as for a British citizen to obtain a visa for Russia – as its key selling-point and that is a fair bit lower than other airlines offer on non-stop services. Although non-stop return flights in anna.aero’s experience rarely have been seen for less than £200/€250, passengers have for long been able to fly between the London area and Moscow with a transfer from around £150/€185 on Lufthansa Group airlines. anna.aero also sees a key difference being easyJet’s one-way fare structure, which eliminates restrictions such as Saturday night stay requirements.

At 2,550 kilometres, the route is no longer than many of easyJet’s routes to the eastern Mediterranean, but the added complexity of the need for easyJet to codeshare with a Russian carrier makes the announcement an interesting development well worth following.

Norwegian’s new ‘home’ base at Gatwick

Norwegian’s new ‘home’ base at Gatwick

Ever since Norwegian put in orders for 200 aircraft, there has been speculation about whether its home market, the Nordic countries, could sustain such an expansion.

Norwegian, which already serves Gatwick from 10 airports in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, will be basing three of its 737-800s at the airport, increasing to four based aircraft before the end of 2013. What makes this base different from its other non-Nordic bases in Malaga, Las Palmas and soon also Alicante is that the low-cost airline intends to not only benefit from lower labour costs while still serving only Nordic markets, but Norwegian has announced that it will serve ‘Mediterranean destinations’ non-stop from the London airport.

Indeed, there has been speculation ever since Norwegian put in orders for 100 737 MAX 8 and 100 A320neo about whether the airline’s de facto home market, the Nordic countries, could sustain such an expansion and representatives from Norwegian have repeatedly referred to the airline’s home market as ‘Northern Europe’ when talking to anna.aero. Still, the move into Gatwick is bold. easyJet is very strong at the airport and there are many other airlines wanting a piece of the Mediterranean market; British Airways, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson to name a few. Aer Lingus famously tried and retracted. But Norwegian also just reported record profits and may be better able to compete with some smaller, potentially financially troubled players in the London market.


  1. Jürgen says:

    At Domodedovo, there is a “connecting service agreement” covering most airlines, Easyjet may link into.

  2. AgeofReason says:

    Interesting how anna-aero is so ‘London-focussed’ – like BA and BAA and many others in GB-south.
    Most of GB is europe-focussed, because LHR hub is a source of delay and mis-service. BA itself regularly mis-sells through tickets XXX-LGW, LHR-YYY without admitting that LHR to LGW is NOT a free transfer. And AMS, FRA and CDG offer more reliable quicker ‘better’ transfers than LHR.

    So there’s no need to pay a premium service fare for a Londoner, and Easyjet is a good option for GB Ltd. Regional inhabitants will make a London nightstop (EJ+hotel< fullservice air), to make sure they get their long haul, or transit AMS, FRA or CDG.

    • markn says:

      How ill informed of the age of reason! BA always mark LGW-LHR transfers as not including the transfer cost and does this person ever really use CDG – it is a nightmare for the travel and seriously unpleasant experience, AMS is regularly fogbound and only delights those who enjoy long walks through terminals and FRA is not far behind. Give me BA and LHR-T5 anyday!

  3. Virgin Atlantic has said it would be reviewing the decision and would not rule out legal action.

    The route was possibly awarded to a carrier other than Virgin because it’s likely to receive the Scottish routes. At the end of the day I think routes from Scotland to LHR are more important for Virgin Atlantic as this will provide them with the all important transfer pax that they need.

  4. 55North says:

    I’m more excited with the news of Jet2 flying weekend excursions to St Petersburg from Newcastle. One day, just maybe, we might get our own scheduled link to Russia.

    Meanwhile, these EJ prices will not undercut our favoured route to Russia via Amsterdam or Brussels hubs using ‘foreign’ providers. We avoid London whereever possible.

  5. Ian Doyle says:

    Why not 7 from LGW and 7 from Manchester ?

    Once again a totally London centric move.

    Pumping total UK demand into the South East is understandable from the airlines point of view but will lead to eventual disaster……

    Why can we not have a federalised airport system like Germany ?

    Manchester and the NWest actually has a larger GDP than some City , destinations served by Aeroflot ….!

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