Low-cost airline EasyJet operated its first flight to Malta this morning.

The Luton-based airline will be flying 10 times per week from Gatwick to Malta and daily from Manchester during the summer. During the shoulder months, it will service Gatwick daily and Manchester airport four times a week. The first flight arrived from Gatwick at 11.30.

Though it is a budget airline, no subsidies are being provided to EasyJet since it has assumed the slots previously operated by GB Airways, the British Airways franchise which it bought in October.

British Airways itself is also starting services between Gatwick and Malta. The increased flights mean a 10 per cent increase in seat capacity on the all-important UK route, although arrivals from the UK dipped in the first two months of this year.

EasyJet is one of the largest low-fare airlines in Europe, operating services on 387 routes between 104 European and North African airports.

Other low-cost airlines which are starting services to Malta include Spain's Vueling flying Madrid to Malta three times a week; Italian airline Volare four times weekly; and airline Norwegian.no between Malta to Oslo three times a week.

Upon arrival this morning the EasyJet aircraft was "saluted" by two fire engines who turned on their hoses to form an arch for the aircraft to taxi through. Passengers were given Maltese wine and flowers were presented to the crew.

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