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Low cost expands to North Africa as EasyJet opens route to Morocco

UK budget carrier EasyJet has become the first airline to take advantage of new liberalised air services agreements with countries neighbouring the European Union to add flights to three new markets outside the Union, launching its first services to Morocco, Turkey and Croatia this summer.

The move comes as the EU expands its liberalised air transport market beyond its borders through a series of open skies agreements with neighbouring states. Morocco was the first African country to sign a liberalised air services agreement with the EU in mid-December. Turkey and Croatia also signed deals late last year and EasyJet is the first carrier to exploit the open rules.

EC officials in Brussels hope to create a European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) covering the vast majority of Europe outside Russia with the same competition, safety and security rules as the EU.

The Gatwick service to Marrakech and Luton flights to Istanbul will be served daily, while Rijeka and the Basle-Istanbul services will be four times weekly.

It becomes the first European budget carrier to operate the routes. London-Marrakech is currently served by British Airways (BA) and Royal Air Maroc, together with the RAM’s budget division Atlas Blue, while BA and Turkish Airlines (THY) currently connect London with Istanbul – although both serve Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

EasyJet Switzerland will also open flights to Istanbul from its base at Basle from 24 May. THY is the only scheduled operator on Basle-Istanbul, while there are currently no scheduled flights linking London with Rijeka.

EasyJet chief executive Andrew Harrison describes the move as the carrier’s most significant expansion since entering the central and eastern European markets two years ago. He says: “Croatia, Turkey and Morocco are forging an ever-closer relationship with the UK and Europe. As a consequence, the demand for low-fares to these countries is growing quickly, and EasyJet will be in a unique position to benefit from this development.”

Parts of this article first appeared on Air Transport Intelligence, an online business intelligence service for the air transport industry with 24 hour news and data available to subscribers.

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