EasyJet is set for long-haul travel, launching a partnership with Norwegian and WestJet to deliver connections at London’s Gatwick Airport. The new service, dubbed “Worldwide by EasyJet” allows passengers to combine airlines in a single booking for a short-haul EasyJet segment continuing to the Americas on one of the long-haul partners. At its core this is a basic interline agreement, meaning minimal benefits transfer across, but it is a huge first step for European LCC carriers in growing across the Atlantic. Assuming a successful implementation the service will expand to Milan, Geneva, Barcelona, Paris-CDG and Amsterdam.
The new Worldwide by EasyJet service requires a 2.5 hour connection time at Gatwick, double the normal minimum other airlines use. That extra time serves as a buffer against delayed flights and also helps ensure passengers and their bags make the connection. Passengers with checked bags are required to collect them and drop them at a dedicated GatwickConnects counter. That service is run by the airport to facilitate connections for airlines that don’t provide such a product themselves. The bag service carries a 15 GBP fee when used ad hoc but the cost is rolled in to the Worldwide by EasyJet fares.
EasyJet’s move beats rival Ryanair to market; the latter was expected to go live with a similar service tied to Air Europa earlier this summer. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has repeated cited technical challenges with GDS integration – making the booking systems talk to each other is not trivial – as delaying his company’s efforts. EasyJet did not suffer such integration challenges and also was less vocal about the early planning efforts. But it delivered on the service, with seats available for sale today.
It appears that Worldwide by EasyJet only sells Norwegian’s LowFare+ product. That includes a seat assignment, checked bag and meal on board. It also comes at a premium of ~$90 each way compared to the lowest fares Norwegian sells. But buying the combined ticket provides protection against a missed connection.
Interestingly, Norwegian also operates a European network from its hub at Gatwick. In some cases EasyJet will be selling seats that compete directly with Norwegian. Because the fares sold are additive (i.e. US-London on Norwegian/WestJet plus London onward on EasyJet) this could create some interesting pricing scenarios for the carriers. That effect will be less pronounced in the other long-haul gateways Norwegian is building up, namely Paris and Barcelona, as Norwegian’s European network at those cities is weaker.
While this new Worldwide by EasyJet service provides some competition to legacy network carriers from the LCCs it is far from a full assault on their business model. Protected connections will enable a boost in sales for such itineraries but many travelers were already considering and even booking such, even unprotected. The current implementation does not optimize connection times nor fares, leading to routes that often take far longer for total travel time and prices that may or may not be competitive. The deal remains a long ways off from a true alliance of LCCs, but seeing them working together rather than 100% battling with each other is undoubtedly an evolution of the market, another challenge for the industry to face.
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