EasyJet, a U.K.-based low-cost carrier, announced today that they will be setting up a new airline, easyJet Europe, in Austria.
Since last year, the company has planned to launch another European base, but they have just now revealed their plans.
EasyJet had originally said they would not announce the location of the new airline headquarters until everything had been approved. However, they decided to reveal Vienna as the new base of operations after it became clear that the approval process would make this information public.
Having already applied for an air operators certificate in Austria, easyJet has said that the application process is “well advanced and easyJet hopes to receive the AOC and license in the near future.”
Currently, easyJet has no plan to move their main headquarters located in Luton, about 30 miles north of London. Furthermore, they have stated that none of the 6,000+ jobs based in Britain will be moved.
They will continue to be listed on the London Stock Exchange and be based in the U.K., but the company will officially be EU-owned.
The new airline, which will be called easyJet Europe, will use planes and employees that are already based in other EU countries. Re-registering the 110 planes to be under Austrian jurisdiction will cost easyJet at least £10 million (around $13 million), but it is a cost they are willing to absorb in order to move forward.
EasyJet Europe will add around 100 jobs in Vienna, and Austria has welcomed their decision to set up a new base there. EasyJet chose Vienna partially because their rules and regulations are very similar to those in Britain, but also because they have experience dealing with high volumes of planes from several major airlines.
In a statement regarding the decision, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said, “This is a victory that was heavily fought for, but which is all the more beautiful for Austria.”
Brexit has created many uncertainties for the future of business between the U.K. and EU members. EasyJet is not taking any chances, and they are setting up easyJet Europe to ensure that flights between European countries can continue without problems after March of 2019.
Since 1997, flights between European locations have been open to any EU airline. Once Brexit occurs in March of 2019, the U.K.-based easyJet would no longer be an EU airline, so would not qualify under these rules. Adding easyJet Europe will allow them to continue seamless operations between European destinations.
In addition, current rules dictate that airlines flying within the EU must be majority owned by European nationals. EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his family own 33% of the company shares and hold passports from Cyprus. EasyJet is confident that this in addition to other shareholders will let them maintain over 50% EU ownership post-Brexit.
According to a spokesman for easyJet, “nothing will change” for passengers. They will still be able to book through the same channels, and operations will continue in the same manner as the current airline.
A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that this move by easyJet was a commercial decision, and that the U.K. government is still working with the European Union to achieve the best possible deal for business in a post-Brexit economy.