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easyJet to quit East Midlands and cull flights from Luton due to higher taxes

LOW-COST airline easyJet said yesterday that it will ground one in five Luton flights and exit East Midlands airport, with the loss of at least 160 jobs, blaming high airport costs and a rise in passenger taxes.<br /><br />Europe&rsquo;s second-largest budget airline said it needs to switch some resources from Britain to continental Europe, and said it would move aircraft to &ldquo;more profitable&rdquo; airports in early 2010.<br /><br />&ldquo;The rise in APD (airport passenger duty) hits regional airports hardest and increases the pressure to move aircraft to mainland Europe,&rdquo; said easyJet chief executive Andy Harrison.<br /><br />EasyJet also criticised Abertis, the Spanish operator of Luton airport, and its owner, Luton Borough Council, for a 25 per cent hike in airport costs over the past three years.<br /><br />A spokeswoman said 120 employees would be affected by the closure of East Midlands airport and around 40 by planned reduction in flight crews from Belfast, Bristol, Newcastle and Stansted. She added around 100 of the firm&rsquo;s 530 staff in Luton could also be affected.