EasyJet Europe, the sister airline set up to preserve easyJet after Brexit, has accelerated its growth by announcing rapid expansion in Berlin and new long-haul connections at Paris and Amsterdam.
The easyJet chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said: “There’s no doubt that the growth potential is in Europe. The UK will always be a critical market, but we have more to go at in the European mainland.”
EasyJet expects to fly 5.6 million passengers this year from Berlin, making it comfortably the biggest airline in the German capital, ahead of Lufthansa.
Lundgren added: “The German population have paid too much money to go on flights and that’s something we want to change.”
The airline has been at Berlin’s Schönefeld airport since 2004 but started operations at the city’s Tegel facilities after taking over parts of Air Berlin in January.
However, the new base may not last long, after Berlin’s senate signalled this week it would ignore a referendum and close Tegel when the long-delayed Brandenburg airport finally opens, provisionally in 2020.
EasyJet is in talks with Middle East and Asian carriers to allow more customers to book connecting flights, which are mainly currently served by Norwegian at Gatwick, as well as Thomas Cook.
The service will be offered later this year at Berlin, Venice, Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Orly, and Edinburgh, meaning more than half of the airline’s flight network could potentially connect to other services.
Lundgren pledged to eliminate flight delays by using data to predict aircraft failures, but admitted that most disruption will remain out of the airline’s hands.
EasyJet has announced a five-year deal with Airbus to forecast aircraft technical faults before they occur. Delays or cancellations due to plane problems have been reduced from 10 to three flights in every 1,000 on easyJet’s newest aircraft, according to the airline.
A three-year trial on a limited number of aircraft pre-empted at least 31 technical failures, Airbus said. The technology will now be applied to easyJet’s entire A320 fleet.
Lundgren said the airline would also make further use of its own data to model flight schedules and analyse how to mitigate delays.
However, he said easyJet and other airlines had remained frustrated in their attempts to push the EU to rein in air traffic control strikes – which he described as aviation’s biggest problem.
A strike in France last week, which saw significant numbers of international flights cancelled or delayed, is likely to be followed by many more this summer. “The ATC strikes, that’s the biggest issue we are facing,” Lundgren said. “We can lobby for changes – but also use the data to predict and minimise the effects of disruption.”