Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyJet, is set to launch a new airline to compete with his old company. The new airline will be called FastJet. Stelios sold controlling interest in the business ten years ago, and has been operating under a non-compete agreement with the new owners, but he claims that they have breached the agreement and so he's ready to go head to head with them.
I rather like EasyJet for providing a simple, bus-like shuttle around European cities. Generally, they provide superior service to their low-cost rivals RyanAir (I wouldn't fly RyanAir again even if it meant missing someone's funeral). And they've often shown innovative flourishes that I really appreciated — for example, in Geneva, the EasyJet automatic check-in dispenses boarding-cards that are the same size as credit cards, so you can carry them in your wallet.
I'm inclined to think that whatever Stelios launches next will benefit from all the stuff he learned with EasyJet, and yet will be able to start afresh, avoiding whatever baggage EasyJet has to lug around as a result of its mistakes along the way. Certainly, Stelios seems to me to be someone who believes in a less humiliating, less uncomfortable, less stressful travel experience, and we could always use more of that.
One immediate difficulty Haji-Ioannou faces in launching a rival is that he continues to own 26% stake in easyJet, while family members have an 11% stake through a company called Polys Holdings.
The Haji-Ioannou family's combined holding was worth around £550m at Monday'sclosing share price. There were reports that other shareholders were calling for him to sell immediately.
It may not be easy, either, for Haji-Ioannou to achieve the success he had with easyJet when setting up a new airline.