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British Airways takes the fight to Ryanair in its Stansted stronghold, for the first time ever

On 9-Feb-2016, British Airways announced the addition of London Stansted to its airport network from May-2016. It will be BA's fourth London airport after Heathrow, Gatwick and City. At first glance, this move does not appear significant. BA's four leisure routes from Stansted will make it the airline's 196th biggest airport, taking just 0.03% of its 2016 summer peak seats (week of 1-Aug-2016, source: OAG).

However, BA's decision is noteworthy for one simple reason. More than any other airport, Stansted has been synonymous with the rise of LCCs in Europe. The scourge of legacy airlines across the continent, LCCs contributed to BA's near-death experience in the years after 9/11, when it fell into loss. The most successful LCC incarnation, Ryanair, has more than 80% of seats at Stansted.

Just a few years ago, during the global financial crisis, BA was again loss-making and would not have had the temerity to enter Ryanair's stronghold. Now, emboldened on the strength of its highest ever operating margin in 2015, BA seems prepared to take on all comers. It is taking only a very small step into Stansted, but every journey starts with a step.

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