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EasyJet passengers to fly on luxury commuter jet with more leg room this summer

Simon Calder

Some passengers booked to fly from Gatwick next month on Britain’s biggest budget airline will find themselves on a luxurious commuter jet with seats at a luxurious 44-inch seat pitch – and no unpopular middle seats.

As easyJet prepares for its busiest-ever summer, it has chartered in five extra aircraft – including one Embraer E-190 commuter jet, to operate from Gatwick from 1 August.

According to the provider, WDL Aviation of Cologne, the borrowed aircraft has a fixed configuration on board. All the seats have more legroom than easyJet’s standard seat pitch of 29 inches.

Most are 31 or 33 inches, but a dozen seats at the front of the aircraft offer 44 inches – a full 15 inches more than usual on easyJet.

Because of the way Air Passenger Duty is calculated, easyJet cannot sell these 12 luxury seats at a premium, so allocation is likely to be random.

With a 2-plus-2 configuration, rather than the usual 3-plus-3, every seat also benefits from being either aisle or window.

The Brazilian-made jet seats only 100 passengers, compared with 156 in the smallest easyJet aircraft – the A319.

The German-owned plane is currently flying French domestic routes on behalf of Air France.

Chartering in planes and crew is commonplace in aviation. The practice, known as “wet-leasing,” is especially prevalent this summer because of the worldwide grounding of Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

Two by two: the seating configuration of the chartered aircraft (WDL Aviation)

While easyJet flies only Airbus jets, the grounding of nearly 400 Max aircraft – and non-delivery of many more, including to Ryanair – has led to a general shortage of planes available to wet-lease. This explains why easyJet has had to buy in an aircraft which is much smaller than the rest of its fleet.

A spokesperson for easyJet said: “A small number of flights will be operated by wet lease aircraft over the peak summer period as we continue to strengthen our operational resilience to help alleviate the impact of air space congestion for our customers.

“To tackle this industry issue we have increased the number of aircraft in the network including leasing four Smartlynx Airbus A320 aircraft with two based at Belin Tegel and two in Milan, and one Embraer E-190 by WDL which will be based in London Gatwick.

“We would like to reassure passengers that they will receive the same high levels of service, safety and care as they would experience on an easyJet aircraft.”

The Independent has asked easyJet for details of routes the borrowed aircraft will be flying on.

On Friday 19 July, easyJet is predicting its busiest-ever day, with more than 312,000 passengers travelling on 1,970 flights across its network.