LONDON British tour operator Jet2.com said it would start flying 21 new routes from London Stansted airport next year in a show of confidence in holiday demand despite an increasingly competitive European flight market.
Low fuel prices have led to a strong growth in capacity on European routes, putting market expansion at a 10-year high on forecasts that airlines will add new capacity of 8 percent over the next six months.
But low-cost carrier Jet2.com, owned by UK-listed travel and logistics company Dart Group (DTG.L), said that it would not struggle to fill planes on its new connections from London's third biggest airport and the fourth busiest in Britain.
"We've aimed for the popular leisure destinations in Europe, in Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands. We feel that some of them are actually underserved from London Stansted so we think there is still strong demand," Jet2.com Chief Executive Steve Heapy said in an interview on Wednesday.
Flying from Stansted will bring Jet2.com into competition with Ryanair (RYA.I), the airport's biggest user and Europe's biggest low-cost airline.
Jet2.com's new base at Stansted will give it a presence in southern England for the first time. In the past, it has served passengers in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Heapy said Jet2.com's sister brand Jet2holidays, through which it sells package holidays, would help it attract customers and compete with Ryanair.
About half of the passengers travelling on the new Stansted flights, due to start from March next year, will be on a Jet2holidays trip, predicted Heapy.
Jet2holidays, plus larger rivals TUI Group (TUIT.L) and Thomas Cook (TCG.L), say demand for holidays has remained strong among Britons this summer, despite a 10 percent fall in the value of the pound against the euro since the Brexit vote in June.
Some destinations like Turkey have not benefited from this demand because of security concerns there.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Tom Heneghan)