Aer Lingus launched flights from its new base at Gatwick this morning, at the same time announcing the surprise departure of chief executive Dermot Mannion.
A 06.10 departure for Malaga was the first of eight routes Aer Lingus will begin flying from Gatwick this month, using a fleet of four aircraft based at the airport.
The Irish carrier also launched services to Knock today. It will fly from Gatwick to Vienna, Nice and Munich from April 20 and add Faro and Zurich on April 26.
The services are pitched in direct competition with Ryanair flights from Stansted, with Aer Lingus offering one-way fares from £9.99. The carrier has fought off two hostile takeover bids from Ryanair, which remains a substantial shareholder in its rival.
Aer Lingus said more than 220,000 seats from Gatwick were sold in advance of the launch and it plans to double its fleet at the airport within a year.
However, the launch coincided with the surprise resignation of Mannion, who said he was stepping down to "allow a new chief executive officer to bring fresh thinking and new ideas".
Mannion was under pressure over a payment clause in his contract early this year and last month reported a group loss of euro 108 million for 2008. The carrier cut 1,500 jobs at the end of last year. Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington will act as chief executive until a replacement is appointed.
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