UK

EasyJet Flies Into The FTSE 100 - How The Orange Short-Haul Carrier Soared Into The UK's Top Index

06/03/2013 17:57 GMT | Updated 07/03/2013 11:47 GMT

EasyJet has joined the upper echelons of share trading after it soared into the FTSE100 index on Wednesday afternoon.

The FTSE Group decides who gets into the blue-chip index by ranking companies by how valuable the company is in terms of its monetary worth; the value of EasyJet has enjoyed a continued rise over the past few months, largely because of the leadership of chief executive, Carolyn McCall.

Launched in November 1995 by serial entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the bold, orange low-cost airline immediately embarked on a bright and punchy marketing campaign, laden with headline-grabbing stunts to attract attention.

One example occurred three years after EasyJet's launch; British Airways set up a low-cost rival called Go, but rather than panic, or start a bad-mouth campaign, Sir Stelios tackled the matter head on and donned an orange boiler suit, gatecrashed Go's first flight, and proceeded to hand out free tickets for his own airline to Go's startled passengers.

As a post-script, EasyJet actually ended up acquiring Go later on - something which probably caused Sir Stelios to chuckle.

In 2000, when Luton airport – then partly owned by Barclays Bank – raised its landing charges, Sir Stelios cut up his Barclaycard outside the local branch, making sure plenty of press was there to see him do it.

Some of the stunts backfired however - in 2005 the airline produced a spoof version of the FT called the Flynancial Times, published in the Pink Un's salmon hue. The FT was not amused, and complained of copyright infringement.

Another publicity campaign spectacularly backfired in 2009 - EasyJet announced it was looking into offering weddings on their planes - an inflight service with a difference, if you will.

However, its plans were scuppered after Luton Borough Council rejected the proposal, saying the current law didn't permit a civil marriage or civil partnership taking place on board an aircraft.

EasyJet's eccentric founder stepped down from his position as chief executive in 2002, saying: "The history of the City is littered with entrepreneurs who held on to their creations for to long," and declaring he wouldn't be one of them.

But Sir Stelios went on to become even more vocal as a shareholder; his rows with current chairman Sir Mike Rake bordered on the bizarre at times - Sir Stelios tabled motions for Rake's removal no less than three times, despite Rake saying he wanted to step down from the role in 2013.

A year ago, McCall joined as chief executive, and since her arrival EasyJet's share price has almost doubled.

While she is accused by critics of giving into many of Sir Stelios's – including paying dividends and handing him £10 million a year for the use of the EasyJet brand - she also worked hard to make the airline improve its customer service, a key differentiator as the low-cost carrier war with Ryanair heated up.

The introduction of allocated seating, on every flight since November, and a push for business travellers has been key to EasyJet's recent success, along with careful managing of its costs by dropping some of its less profitable European short haul flights.

The company is now worth an estimated £4 billion - and in a nice coincidence ahead of International Women's Day, the entry of EasyJet into the FTSE100 will see McCall become the third female chief executive in the top flight index, joining Angela Ahrendts at fashion group Burberry and Alison Cooper of Imperial Tobacco.