Low-cost airline easyJet has announced the launch of its new long-haul partnership service, ‘Worldwide by easyJet.’
Passengers can now fly to a range of long-haul destinations via Gatwick Airport, connecting with one of easyJet’s partnership airlines for a smooth transition on a single-booked ticket.
The airline has formed a partnership with Norwegian and Canadian carrier WestJet, offering flights to North and South America and the far east. The scheme will also allow passengers to book other connecting easyJet flights.
Bookings will be made via the easyJet website as standard and will use the GatwickConnects product, a service that helps passengers self-connect to another flight at the airport.
Around 200,000 passengers a year connect from one easyJet flight to another at Gatwick, but they have previously needed to book each flight separately and re-check in their own luggage.
Easyjet claims that the scheme will not adversely affect its punctuality or operating model, and it will not hold flights for connecting passengers, who instead will be subject to a minimum connection time of two and a half hours.
The Luton-based carrier plans to sign up other airlines to its Worldwide scheme and said that talks were “already far advanced” with Middle Eastern and Asian carriers, among others.
It hopes to expand to other key airports in Europe such as Milan Malpensa, Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Barcelona.
Ryanair began offering customers the opportunity to connect from one of its flights to another in Rome in May. It said at the time that it was continuing discussions with Aer Lingus, Norwegian and other airlines to sell connecting flights.
The move to offer connecting long-haul flights is likely to be a key battleground for short-haul airlines who are reluctant to start flying long-haul routes themselves, but who want to benefit from the growing popularity of such flights.
EasyJet’s outgoing chief executive, Carolyn McCall, said: “Around 70 million passengers flying through an easyJet airport each year are connecting on to other flights, mainly long-haul, and it is this market segment that Worldwide by easyJet will open up for us.”
The announcement represents one of the most significant strategic shirts made by the airline since it introduced allocated seating in 2012.