October 17, 2017 / 2:04 PM / a year ago

EasyJet sees no need to enter long-haul given M&A options in Europe: CEO

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British budget airline easyJet (EZJ.L) won’t enter the rapidly growing low-cost, long-haul market given its abundance of options to buy parts of failed European airlines, CEO Carolyn McCall said on Tuesday.

An EasyJet passenger aircraft makes its final approach for landing in Colomiers near Toulouse, Southwestern France, November 24, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

In the last week, easyJet has confirmed its interest in parts of Air Berlin AB1.DE and Alitalia CAITLA.UL, which went into administration earlier this year, and McCall said easyJet was also interested in airport slots of failed airline Monarch [MONA.UL] after it went bust at the start of October.

EasyJet has also agreed a long haul connection service with Norwegian Air Shuttle (NWC.OL).

But asked if easyJet had any interest in getting involved in long haul directly, McCall said no.

“From a board perspective, that’s not on the agenda. There’s so much organic growth. If you look at the consolidation, Monarch, Alitalia, Air Berlin, we are talking to all of them,” she said on the sidelines of an Airlines for Europe meeting in Brussels.

She said negotiations over Air Berlin were ongoing, without elaborating, after easyJet on Friday said it was interested in operating 25 of the German airline’s planes at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

“Talks are still very much alive, is all I’m prepared to say,” McCall said.

McCall will leave easyJet in January to join broadcaster ITV (ITV.L), in a move announced earlier this year after a seven year stint in charge. The budget airline has not announced a replacement.

The collapse of Monarch boosted the share prices of airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair (RYA.I) on the prospect of an easing in the intense competition in the sector which has kept a lid on prices.

Flight cancellations by Ryanair after a pilot rostering fiasco have also reduced the supply of flights to customers, and McCall said she was already seeing signs of an improvement in pricing as a result of a reduction in capacity across the industry.

“Consolidation in market has been expected and predicted ... any capacity out of market will help existing players,” she said. “Fares will improve as a result.”

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Writing by Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Potter

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