easyJet, BA & Virgin Atlantic Apply for Moscow Rights

Gatwick Airport could secure a new direct link to Moscow early next year after easyJet and British Airways (BA) both applied for the rights to operate services from London’s second busiest gateway to the Russian capital, reports our sister title Routes News.

As reported by last week, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a scarce capacity review to find a new airline to operate 14 weekly slots between Moscow and London, taking over rights currently held by bmi, but which will become vacant once the carrier suspends operations in October.

easyJet has applied to operate the full 14 weekly services between Gatwick and as yet undisclosed Moscow airport effective from January/February 2013. The no frills carrier plans to operate an A320 on the route with a capacity of 5,040 seats per week during the summer and winter schedules

BA, which already holds the rights to operate 21 services per week from Heathrow to Moscow's Domodeovo International Airport, has applied to begin twice daily flights from Gatwick to Sheremetyevo International Airport from January 2013.

The flag carrier stated it would operate twice daily A320 services from Gatwick and planned to launch operations in January 2013. The carrier said it already held slots at Gatwick and had successfully obtained the necessary slots at Shrewmteyvo.

Virgin Atlantic, which has publicly stated its intentions to serve Moscow from next year, has applied to operate 14 weekly flights from London Heathrow to Moscow Domodedovo with an A330-300 on the route effective January 2013.

Under the present agreement, both countries are limited to 35 services per week between Moscow and London with British Airways and Aeroflot each allocated 21 services per week while bmi and Transaero can each operate 14.

With the demise of bmi in October, those rights will become vacant.

Paul Moore, a spokesman for easyJet, said there were compelling reasons why the low-cost carrier should be awarded the rights: "The CAA looks at a number of aspects when deciding to award these scare capacity certificates and it would seem to us to make little sense for BA to operate on this route. The CAA is always interested in putting new carriers onto routes and if you look at our recent third quarter performance we achieved a load factor of 89% so if you compare with other airlines that are applying for these rights we are offering a compelling proposition."

"We would have more impact on this route, we would make it more accessible and more affordable as we have done on other major city pairs such as London-Berlin or Munich and Edinburgh."

Moore said the airline was "very concious" that the bilateral agreement with Russia stipulates that easyJet would need to operate its first ever codeshare with either Aeroflot or Transaero in order to qualify for the rights.

The deadline for airlines to submit an application has now ended and the CAA will now review the three submissions, setting a date of October 1 and 2 to hold a hearing to award the rights. A premlinary meeting to address issues of process will be held on July 31.

A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport said: “We await with interest to the outcome of the capacity constraints review that is currently taking place regarding this route. In the meantime, we continue, as always, to support the growth of our airlines at Gatwick.”

In an interview with The HUB last month, Tranasero’s Deputy Director General Dmitry Stolyarov, hinted at talks with BA over a codeshare on the route declaring that while the relationship with bmi had been successful “We wouldn’t actual rule out co-operating with BA either.”

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