EasyJet draws fresh protests from Stelios

Marion Dakers

JET’S biggest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has gone on the offensive as the airline considers its next plane purchase, threatening to sell his holding unless the board calls a halt to any new aircraft orders.

Sir Stelios, along with his brother and sister, have already sold 600,000 EasyJet shares in the open market to “send a clear message to our directors” over the firm’s spending plans.

It is thought to be the first time since 2004 that Sir Stelios has sold down his family’s 37 per cent stake in the airline.

The EasyJet founder has long been critical of the company’s relationship with Airbus, and forced out deputy chairman Sir David Michels in 2011 in a dispute over the firm’s expansion strategy.

He has claimed the company is paying over the odds for too many aircraft at the expense of profit growth.

He said in an open letter to the board yesterday that while he welcomed EasyJet’s recent profits and dividend payouts, another aircraft order “could screw up this financial success story”.

EasyJet, which has 217 aircraft in its fleet, has been speaking to Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier about its next order, for delivery after 2017.

The firm declined to comment.