Orange-clad low-cost carrier easyJet has come a long way since starting operations with two Boeing 737s in the mid-1990s. It now operates a considerable all-Airbus fleet that consists of more than 300 aircraft across the easyJet group as a whole. A key part of the UK budget airline’s growth has been the acquisition of several airlines along the way.
A key milestone in easyJet’s establishment of itself as a leading European low-cost carrier has been its launch of a Swiss subsidiary. This occurred in April 1999, following the airline’s acquisition of TEA Switzerland the previous year. TEA Switzerland was, itself, a brand of Belgian carrier Trans European Airways (TEA), and was May founded in 1988.
It is worth noting that easyJet didn’t immediately acquire all of TEA Switzerland. Indeed, the share that it purchased in March 1998 amounted to 40%. By 2013, it had increased its share to 49%, with private investors owning the remaining 51% of the subsidiary. The launch of easyJet Switzerland allowed the carrier to set up its first non-UK base, namely in Geneva.
This has since become one of many spread throughout the continent, cementing easyJet’s position as a truly European carrier despite the UK leaving the EU.
At the turn of the century, one of easyJet’s main low-cost competitors was Go Fly. This carrier came into existence in the late 1990s as a subsidiary of British Airways. This occurred after BA identified a need to have a presence in the growing European low-cost market.
In the early 2000s, changes in BA’s management structure left Go Fly in an uncertain position. The UK flag carrier was also worried that Go was inadvertently cannibalizing its own services due to the lower fares it offered. As such, BA sold Go to 3i for £100 million in 2001. Under the more consistent ownership of this investment company, Go Fly began to grow once more.
This ultimately prompted easyJet to acquire its competitor for £374 million in May 2002, representing a tidy profit for 3i. Go was absorbed into the easyJet brand within a year, with the carrier inheriting Go’s aircraft and bases, marking considerable growth.
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The third and final airline that easyJet has acquired to date is GB Airways. This Gatwick-based carrier had an extensive history, dating back as far as 1931 when it came into existence as Gibraltar Airways. I
Interestingly enough, easyJet’s early years saw it use GB Airways aircraft to operate its flights, as it didn’t receive an AOC until October 1997. 10 years later, the airline announced its plans to acquire GB Airways as a whole for £103.5 million.
The purchase received approval in January 2008, and it allowed easyJet to grow its operations at the likes of London Gatwick and Manchester Airport. These facilities remain key operating bases for easyJet UK today, showing the legacy of the acquisition.
Were you aware of easyJet’s various acquisitions? Did you ever fly on any of these carriers? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
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