A History Of easyJet – From 2 Routes To European Giant

easyJet will be preparing to celebrate its 25th birthday next year. Following a quarter of a century in the air, the carrier has come a long way since its inception.

The firm is one of Europe’s most popular airlines. With a fleet of over 330 Airbus aircraft serving over 35 countries, easyJet continues to grow within the continent.

easyJet Airbus A319-111
From its two UK routes, easyJet has gone on to become one of the most important European low-cost carriers. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Humble beginnings

The airline was founded in March 1995 by Greek-Cypriot entrepreneur, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. The businessman chose the modest town of Luton in the United Kingdom as the place to start his mission to offer low-fares flights in Europe.

In the winter of the same year, easyJet launched its first two flights across the UK. The route of Luton to Glasgow was launched on November 10th before Luton to Edinburgh was launched on November 24th. The flight cost was low as £29 ($36) one way, which was an extremely attractive offer at the time.

The launch of these reasonable flights was backed by a campaign that claimed that the flights were the same price as a pair of jeans. Images of typical 1990s’ style, baggy jeans were flashed across the commercials, along with the airline’s phone number. This number was also splashed across the livery of the early aircraft used by the airline to help promote their brand.

By reinvesting the returns made on these local routes, the company took delivery of its first wholly-owned airliner. This Boeing 737-300’s delivery was taken in April 1996 and to mark the milestone, easyJet launched its first international services. Amsterdam was chosen as the first international destination to be served by easyjet.

After receiving its Air Operating Certificate, the low-cost carrier opened its second UK base at Liverpool Airport in autumn 1997. In the following year, the brand took advantage of the internet wave and started to promote bookings on easyJet.com. The URL of the site soon replaced the airline’s phone number on the liveries of their newer Boeing 737-300s.

easyJet Boeing 737
Early easyJet airliners had their number painted over their liveries to promote the new brand. Photo:
Aero Icarus via Flickr

European expansion

easyJet expanded further following an investment in Swiss charter operation, TEA Basel AG, changing its name to easyJet Switzerland. Here, the carrier launched services from Geneva to Nice, Amsterdam and Barcelona. These routes became the first easyJet services that were flown only outside of the UK.

Before the dawn of the new millennium, easyJet’s popularity was catalyzed by the television show, Airline. This ITV documentary showed potential customers candid footage that followed the growth of the carrier. This show helped the airline’s brand recognition grow as it was shown during peak hours on terrestrial television.

Throughout the next decade, Sir Stelios’ charismatic and transparent personality helped the brand connect with its customers. The founder was eventually welcomed into the UK Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame in in May 2004. During this time, the executive ordered 120 Airbus A319s to add to his growing fleet.

Ten years after its formation, easyJet welcomed its 100 millionth passenger in May 2005. Subsequently, the firm became the first major low-cost airline to offer online check-in for its UK passengers.

EasyJet Boeing 737-73V
easyJet capitalized on the .com buzz and used the internet to benefit its growth. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

Brand recognition

By 2010, the low-cost airline reached 500 itineraries and was voted the Best Low-Fares Airline for the tenth year in a row at the Business Traveller magazine awards. The firm capitalized on this growth by launching flexible prices for business passengers and announcing carbon emission reduction procedures.

Despite its cost-cutting policies, the carrier has not been involved in any fatal incidents. However, there was a near miss when the airline almost collided with a Norwegian plane at Edinburgh last summer. Sir Stelios has used brand’s recognizability to form other products as part of his wider easyGroup holdings. These products include bus services, car hire, internet services, hotels and letting agencies.

The entrepreneur’s persona and drive have helped his airline grow into one of the most prolific low-cost carriers in the world. The company now employs over 12,000 people and serves 1,1000 routes. The airline’s growth saw it fly 90 million passengers from its 29 bases across Europe.

easyJet now seeks further progress heading into the next decade, especially just after receiving the 9,000th Airbus A320 family aircraft. There have also been reports on interest in buying airline Aigle Azur following the French outfit’s recent collapse.

Plenty of fanfare is expected once easyJet’s 25th birthday hits. Simple Flying will update on any news heading into the celebration.