EasyJet beats Virgin Atlantic in fight for Moscow access

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EasyJet has succeeded in convincing the UK's Civil Aviation Authority that it should be awarded a certificate to operate flights to Russia.

The low-cost carrier had been competing with Virgin Atlantic for access to Russia in the wake of the closure of BMI, which along with British Airways had been one of just two UK carriers permitted to operate Moscow flights.

Two Russian carriers - Aeroflot and Transaero - are also permitted to fly between the UK and Russia under the existing bilateral arrangement.

Justifying its decision to award the flying rights to EasyJet, Iain Osborne, CAA director of regulatory policy, says: "On balance, allocating scarce capacity to BA and EasyJet is likely to deliver the greatest benefit to consumers.

"We concluded that EasyJet's proposal would introduce a distinctly different product into the market and would stimulate innovation on the route as a whole, as well as satisfying and stimulating consumer demand that is currently underserved."

EasyJet will now have the right to operate 14 weekly flights from London Gatwick airport to Moscow Domodedovo airport. Virgin's application had proposed operating the routes from London Heathrow airport to Domodedovo.

Virgin argued that EasyJet would reduce overall capacity on the route by operating smaller aircraft, while EasyJet said its low-cost business model would heighten price competition in the market.

BA's existing 21 weekly flights from Heathrow to Domodedovo are unaffected by the decision, but its application to launch 14 new services from Gatwick to Moscow Sheremetyevo airport was dismissed along with Virgin's bid.

EasyJet will launch its twice daily service to Moscow in spring 2013 with an Airbus A320. Return fares will start from £125 ($201), the airline says.