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fThe Low-cost Orange Flying Machine: The Case of easyJet


The colour orange is increasingly becoming synonymous with the firm easyJet as it has become one of the world’s most profitable low-cost airlines (Alamdari and Fagan, 2005). This paper examines the basis of their success and argues firstly, that easyJet from its inception essentially adopted and stayed with the original low-cost model that was pioneered by Southwest airlines in the USA. Moreover, this is a model that has served them well, resulting in sustained business performance and growth over a decade. However, our second point is that with this growth, and increased competition, there are signs of the need for a change. Accordingly, in what follows, we examine in turn: the historical origins of easyJet, emphasizing its values and the influence of the Southwest airlines model; the essential features of its business model; and some indication of its business performance over time.

Historical Origins: Personality, Values and the Southwest Way

EasyJet was conceived in 1995, with its first flight occurring in November of that year. There are numerous descriptions of the early start-up days, but one of the most vivid is surely the following (Calder 2006: 113):

The entrance to the average airline’s headquarters is an impressive affair, intended to impress visitors. But the HQ of Britain’s most successful low-cost airline is far from average. For a while, the modest foyer of easyland – the huddle of temporary buildings from which one of Europe’s leading airlines is run – was adorned by a tent. It was a small, two-person job, strung from the roof… Take one shipping millionaire, two Boeing 737s normally used for British Airways flights and several dozen gallons of orange paint, and you have a revolution in the skies. But industry watchers like myself were slow to realise the scale of the…...

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