Low-cost carrier's Swiss arm goes for growth, with frequency boosts and new routes

EasyJet Switzerland is to introduce a third daily flight from London Gatwick to Zurich from mid-December and soon hopes to launch a Paris Orly-Geneva route. The low-cost operator's growth prospects have been boosted by the collapse of flag carrier Swissair.

Adding Paris to the six destinations already served from Geneva depends on the airline obtaining approval for the 20 slots it has requested in Paris. A decision is due soon, and is part of a quest by UK parent company EasyJet to set up a major hub at Orly.

EasyJet Switzerland, which has operated as an EasyJet franchise since 1999 after the UK-based low-cost carrier took a 40% stake in the former TEA Basel, will carry around 1.2 million passengers this year,up from one million last year - gaining market-share in Geneva and Zurich. With Paris services added, the EasyJet franchisee will carry an extra 300,000 passengers, according to Philippe Vignon, the carrier's marketing manager.

Rising passenger numbers have not come at the cost of lower prices. Yields out of the two Swiss cities are expanding in line with EasyJet's company-wide growth of around 5% a year, after an initial dip in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks.

EasyJet Switzerland flies to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton and Nice from Geneva. Should the request for slots at Paris Orly be rejected, foiling EasyJet plans for a second Continental European operational base, a fifth Boeing 737 may be employed to fly to Madrid, says Vignon.

Optionally, plans to expand in Zurich will be accelerated. The city represents the biggest catchment area in Switzerland, with a population of 6 million, three times Geneva's. But the shortage of slots at the airport has slowed the airline's growth.

"Things have changed since Swissair collapsed," says Vignon. It will ease the way for boosting frequencies to London and for a Geneva and Zurich shuttle service.

Source: Flight International