15 May 2000

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the publicity-conscious founder and chief executive of direct-sell budget airline easyJet, is poised to declare cyber-war against Barclays Bank.

The cause of his wrath is an attempt by Barclays to impose what he regards as unreasonable landing charges at Luton Airport, the airline’s UK base. The bank controls 62% of the airport’s stock via its venture capital funds.

Mr Haji-Ioannou’s is to counter-attack by inviting his three million-plus customers to e-mail him with their views about the prospect of £5 per head being added to the cost of all their flights from Luton. The campaign results from a deadlock in easyJet’s negotiations for a new contract at Luton, and the airline now says it will focus future growth at its other centres in Geneva, Liverpool and Amsterdam.

According to easyJet chief executive Ray Webster, Barclays is attempting to increase easyJet's charges at Luton from about £1.68 a passenger to £6-£7. Although conceding that it is “impractical” for easyJet to quit Luton altogether, Webster blames "greedy investment bankers" for depriving Luton Airport and the local community of future growth.

The e-mails received will be forwarded to the DETR.

News source: The Times (London)