UK low-cost carrier EasyJet is making its debut on the London Gatwick-Moscow Domodedovo route, after securing the UK route rights to operate the city pair formerly used by BMI.
The route, EasyJet's first service to the Russian capital, marks its 100th destination from Gatwick.
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall says: "Moscow is a landmark route and one we are delighted to be able to serve. Russia is the world's largest country with a growing economy."
The carrier will fly the Airbus A320-operated service to Moscow daily, before adding a second frequency from the middle of next month. It will also begin four-times weekly flights from Manchester at the end of the month.
"Bookings for both of our Russian routes have surpassed our expectations," says McCall. The airline expects to fly 300,000 passengers from the UK to Moscow in the first year of operations.
EasyJet joins incumbent carriers British Airways, Aeroflot and Transaero on the London-Moscow market. BA serves London Heathrow-Domodedovo using Boeing widebodies; Aeroflot connects Heathrow with Moscow Sheremetyevo using Airbus narrowbodies.
Transaero serves Heathrow-Domodedovo daily, as well as Moscow Vnukovo, using a mix of Boeing 737s and 767s.
EasyJet was awarded the route rights ahead of Virgin Atlantic after the acquisition of BMI by British Airways parent International Airlines Group. Earlier this month it agreed a commercial deal with Transaero, BMI's former codeshare partner on the route, a stipulation of operating the service.