EasyJet to provide feeder traffic to long-haul carriers
EasyJet will provide feeder traffic to long-haul carriers for the first time, the budget airline has announced.
Passengers taking connecting flights via London Gatwick - such as those travelling from Aberdeen to New York - will be able to book the entire trip on easyJet's website.
The airline has formed a partnership with Norwegian and WestJet, offering flights to North and South America and the Far East.
Under the Worldwide scheme, passengers will also be able to connect with other easyJet flights.
Around 200,000 passengers a year connect from one easyJet flight to another at Gatwick, but they have previously needed to book each flight separately and transfer their own luggage.
The announcement represents one of the most significant strategic changes made by the airline since it introduced allocated seating in 2012.
Bookings will include the GatwickConnects service, meaning passengers' checked luggage will be transferred to their second flight, and if they miss their connection they will be given a seat on the next available flight free of charge.
EasyJet said it will sign up other airlines to the new system and discussions are "already far advanced" with Middle Eastern and Far Eastern carriers among others.
It plans to expand to other key airports in Europe such as Milan Malpensa, Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Barcelona.
The increased connectivity is due to an "innovative platform" created by flight search engine firm Dohop.
EasyJet insisted the scheme will not impact on its punctuality or operating model.
It will not hold flights for connecting passengers, who will be subject to a minimum connection time of two and a half hours between flights.
The airline will also begin selling standalone tickets on behalf of Loganair from next month, allowing easyJet customers to book onward flights from destinations such as Glasgow and Edinburgh to Scotland's Highlands and Islands.
This will give smaller airlines access to a larger market as around 360 million visits were made to easyJet's website in the past 12 months.
EasyJet's outgoing chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said: "Around 70 million passengers flying through an easyJet airport each year are connecting on to other flights, mainly long-haul, and it is this market segment that Worldwide by easyJet will open up for us.
"Because of easyJet's strong positions at Europe's leading airports and our customer focus, long-haul carriers have been asking to work with easyJet for some time and the new technology platform has now allowed us to do so.
"Our own customers and those who fly with other airlines, short and long-haul, have also asked us to make it easier to connect with easyJet flights and this simple booking platform makes it easy for them to do so.
"By opening this new market segment this now means that easyJet can access a greater range of passengers flying across Europe."
The destinations which can now be booked on easyJet.com include New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Toronto and Singapore.
Thomas Ramdahl, chief commercial officer of Norwegian, said: "Travel should be affordable for all so we are delighted to partner with another quality low-cost airline like easyJet to offer passengers even more choice.
"With Norwegian's growing long-haul networks and easyJet's extensive European routes, millions more passengers will have the chance to travel to some of the world's top destinations, all with great fares, smooth connections and a quality service."
Ed Sims, an executive vice-president at WestJet, said: "EasyJet's new booking platform, Worldwide, is a great fit with our London Gatwick service and we're excited to provide Canadian travellers with connections to easyJet's extensive European network.
"Many of our guests already self-connect between WestJet and easyJet flights, and this new booking tool will make it easier than ever before to travel throughout Europe from Canada and back."
Dublin-based carrier Ryanair began offering customers the opportunity to connect from one of its flights to another in Rome in May.
It said at the time that it was continuing discussions with Aer Lingus, Norwegian and other airlines to sell connecting flights.
Aviation consultant John Strickland said: "This is primarily about customer convenience, making it easier to book multi-airline itineraries via the easyJet website but still using individual airline pricing rather than through fares.
"EasyJet operates with load factors in the mid 90s so this is about marginal top-up business.
"They will also not break the low-cost carrier model as, though connections will be made easier, there will be no obligation on the airline in the event these are missed."