Both easyJet and Ryanair have for some time been looking at so-called feeder flights to attract more customers, and have often said traditional carriers should use low cost rivals to bring passengers to their hubs.
The move is an attempt to muscle into the market for connections at international hub airports currently dominated by the big global airline alliances — Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance.
EasyJet passengers will be able to buy other airlines’ flights on easyJet.com and will also initially be able to connect onto long-haul flights provided by Norwegian Air Shuttle and WestJet at London Gatwick using the airport’s Gatwick Connect scheme.
Peter Duffy, chief commercial officer at easyJet, said 70 million passengers currently begin journeys at easyJet airports, and make a stop before traveling across continents, and that easyJet wanted a slice of that market.
“This will open up lots of new competition for long-haul travel and will drive prices down,” Duffy told reporters.
In January, Ryanair said it hoped to start offering connections to long-haul flights from Norwegian and Aer Lingus from May, but later said that would more likely be from September. It said technical issues were causing delays.
The move also increases pressure on British Airways (BA) at Gatwick, where BA lacks the short-haul feed for its intercontinental routes, RBC analyst Damian Brewer said.
EasyJet also said it was in talks with carriers in the Middle East and Asia about joining the scheme, which would expand into other airports in Europe.