EasyJet marked a double first this morning as its shares began trading on the FTSE 100 index and its inaugural flight to Moscow took off from Gatwick.
Daily easyJet services to the Russian capital launched from Gatwick North, with the first flight due to take off at 10:00 but subsequent departures at 07:00.
EasyJet will begin a second daily Gatwick-Moscow service in the early afternoon in mid-April.
It will also commence flights four times a week from Manchester to Moscow in late March.
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall hailed the day as “historic” and said: “Reaching the FTSE 100 is the result of successful delivery of a strategy of sustainable growth and returns.”
McCall said easyJet’s “low fares with friendly service” was providing “industry-leading returns for shareholders”.
Adopting part of a former British Airways slogan, McCall added: “We are well on our way to becoming Europe’s favourite airline.”
BA promoted itself in the 1990s with the slogan “the world’s favourite airline”, before dropping the tagline in 2001.
McCall described London-Moscow as “a landmark route” on which easyJet won traffic rights at the expense of Virgin Atlantic after both carriers pitched for the rights formerly held by BMI.
EasyJet put fares to Moscow on sale at the turn of the year, but was only able to confirm it had all the necessary permits from the Russian authorities last week.
BA continues to operate to Moscow from Heathrow, the route served by BMI until it was taken over by BA last April. Russian carriers Transaero and Aeroflot also fly between Heathrow and Moscow.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate described the award of the route to easyJet and Gatwick as “significant”.
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