No-frills UK carrier easyJet has secured a 40% stake in charter operator TEA Switzerland from owner Airfinance. The London Luton-based airline intends to relaunch TEA as easyJet Switzerland as soon as it can exercise an option for a controlling stake.

The move follows easyJet's failed attempt to acquire Air Holland and the need to reduce dependence on its Luton base.

EasyJet says that it will only be able to take a 90% stake if the Swiss foreign ownership limit is lifted from 40%, which will happen if the country decides to join the European Union-driven plan for "open skies" on 1 October, ending Swissair's monopoly on scheduled services.

The carrier will also wait to see if cost reductions at TEA can be achieved through "lease restructuring and combined marketing".

The airline will start operating TEA aircraft on its existing route from Geneva to Luton on 1 May, while TEA will continue for the time being with its charter operations. By 1 October, easyJet hopes to move TEA's operations from Basle to Geneva and fly to destinations including Amsterdam, Barcelona and Nice - routes already served from Luton. EasyJet says that it also hopes to operate some services from Zurich.

TEA operates five Boeing 737-300s, leased from International Lease Finance of Los Angeles, and has two 737-700s on order.

Source: Flight International