EasyJet Plc will halt flights between London and Moscow as ticket sales are hurt by the combination of a slowing Russian economy and stricter visa-approval procedures.
EasyJet will suspend operations on March 21, while continuing to monitor the situation with a view to resuming the service should demand pick up, the Luton, England-based company said in a statement Friday.
Europe’s No. 2 discount carrier has been flying to Moscow from London Gatwick airport since 2012 after being awarded route rights ahead of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. Russia’s economy shrank 4.6 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, while the ruble is down 45 percent against the dollar in 12 months.
“The decision has been taken in response to the significant and sustained reduction in demand,” EasyJet said.
With only two carriers from the U.K. and two from Russia permitted to fly between London and Moscow under air-services accords, the move could ultimately jeopardize EasyJet’s route rights. A review of permissions would be prompted if another airline applied, spokeswoman Anna Knowles said.
IAG SA’s British Airways also serves Moscow, while Aeroflot PJSC, Russia’s largest airline, and Transaero Airlines, the second-biggest, hold reciprocal rights. A planned merger of the two could allow another Russia operator to start services.
An intruder got on to an Easyjet flight at Gatwick Airport with no passport or boarding pass before the departure gate had opened.
Police were called when a 51-year-old woman boarded the plane to Tenerife just after 07:00 BST without a ticket or identification documents.
They arrested the German national on suspicion of entering a security restricted area without permission.
The flight was delayed for about an hour while passengers were rescreened.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police were called to the North Terminal departure gate 111 in Gatwick airport… to a report a woman had boarded an Easyjet flight to Tenerife before boarding had actually started.
“Airport staff found that she had no ID, no passport and no boarding pass.
“The plane was rescreened for security purposes and all the passengers were allowed to board and continue with their journey.”
In a statement on its website, Easyjet said the flight was delayed for about an hour because of “additional security checks in Gatwick”.
A Gatwick Airport spokeswoman said “there was no risk to passenger security” and it was investigating the matter “with all relevant parties”.
“As a precautionary measure, all passengers on flight EZY8703 disembarked the plane to be rechecked through security,” she added.