While EasyJet's latest advance outside of the European Union through the launch of flights to Moscow is its most eye-catching yet, it is development in its established markets which is still likely to fuel its growth.
The low-cost carrier has just launched its first flights to the Russian capital, initially daily from London Gatwick, before adding a second frequency and a link from Manchester in the coming weeks.
It joins a network which already includes flights to points outside the European Union in Egypt, Iceland, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey.
EasyJet beat Virgin Atlantic for the second UK carrier designated rights on the city pair to succeed BMI after it was acquired by International Airlines Group - parent of the other UK carrier on the route, British Airways. But the route differs from some of its non-EU routes - such as those to Morocco - in that it remains covered by existing bilateral deals.
"The whole of Europe is bilateral bound with Moscow. Our ambition would be to link some other points of the network with Moscow, but that might not be possible," said EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall from Moscow after the carrier's debut flight to the city. "The way we approach the network is we will try to connect Moscow in time to other points in our network, if that makes sense and we will obviously do that within bilateral agreements."
It is one of two highly symbolic new launches for the carrier in the space of a week, alongside its forthcoming entry on the Milan Linate-Rome Fiumicino, which further support its development on some key business routes. EasyJet expects around a third of passengers on the Moscow route will be on business travel and is undeterred by some signs the strong economic growth in Russia may be stalling. McCall notes that for Russia any weakening will just mean slower growth rather than decline, while she believes the airline's model is robust enough to thrive even in tougher economic conditions.
"What we have done across Europe, where all the economies in one way or another have either gone into decline or flattened, is demonstrated our business model succeeds even when times are very tough. So actually if things get worse in Russia, then actually it will be a good opportunity for EasyJet because a lot of people reconsider and use us, and once they fly with us for the first time, they tend not to go back [to the original airline] and stay with us," she says.
It marks a further expansion outside the EU - and with it the single aviation market in which low-cost carriers have thrived in encumbered by the limitations of bilaterals. Though Moscow is far from EasyJet's first foray outside of the European Union, it is probably the most challenging yet. That has, for instance, necessitated striking an undisclosed commercial deal - which is definitely not a codeshare according to McCall - with one of the incumbent Russian operators on the route, Transaero.
"Doing aviation business within the EU is relatively straight forward. It doesn't mean you can't work outside [of the EU] but it does mean you have to have a very different mindset to do so," says McCall. "It is very different and it takes longer as a result. I think that is to be expected, but it is a lesson.
"Some of the reasons we do these [non-EU routes] are we think we can open up markets, so Jordan is a very good example, where there is only the national carrier really, and we can come in with a very affordable price and they really want us there," she adds. "Whereas Moscow is a scarce [capacity] route, so it's a very good route with not that much capacity, it's a profitable route so there is a reason for doing that."
But she adds: "What we do outside the EU is really small, I know it makes a big noise, but those are at the outer ring of what we do. The bread and butter is short haul, routes with average sectors of one and a half hours, that's where well over 95% of our flying is."
Crucially she sees the airline's growth largely driven by opportunities within Europe, and still within many of its traditional markets.
"I think there really is room [to grow]," she says. "There are some banker markets for us, and the ones you might think are least likely in some ways [to expand in] actually have the most bankable returns - you [might] think they are mature and saturated but actually they are not. We are still taking share in the UK. We know if we add capacity into Switzerland we can grow profitably there.
"It's the same in France, we've got about 12% share, but there is really only Air France there, so there is room to grow. Last year we opened Nice, Toulouse and Lyon as new bases, they are all doing well and we know there is more to go for there. You have got the German economy is quite strong, there are opportunities there.