Budget airline easyJet is launching Manchester's first direct flight to Moscow as well as routes to Prague and Thessaloniki.

The expansion is expected to create around 80 direct and 250 indirect jobs, the company said.

The first-ever scheduled flights between Manchester and Moscow will begin next Spring and will operate four flights each way a week. The flights will go on sale in a few weeks.

The eighth aircraft, which will be based at the airport from March 2013, will create a further 80 cabin crew, pilot and ground handling jobs in Manchester taking the total number of new jobs from both new aircraft to 160 with a combined total of around 500 indirect jobs resulting from the expansion.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: "We are pleased to announce the launch of the first ever scheduled services between Manchester and Moscow.

“Russia has a fast growing economy and is a country rich in culture and history - so a direct link from the North of England has been long overdue. With our strong European network we look forward to connecting Moscow with other European cities.

“We are also pleased to be able to announce further expansion from Manchester with the arrival of another aircraft in March 2013. This is great news for the regional economy creating much-needed jobs in the city.

“Moscow and Prague will appeal to business and leisure travellers alike with Thessaloniki promising to be a popular choice for holidaymakers from the region. We look forward to welcoming passengers onboard our new services in Spring next year.”

The four-hour flights will operate four times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sunday using an Airbus A320 with 180 seats onboard.

Manchester will become the only airport in the UK outside of London offering Moscow services. The airline expects to fly over 60,000 passengers in its first year of service between Manchester and Moscow.

The additional aircraft will also enable easyJet to launch a new route to both Czech Republic capital city of Prague and Thessaloniki as well as add more frequencies to popular destinations like Paphos and Santorini.

The airline will offer three services a week to Prague on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays along with twice weekly services to the Greek island of Thessaloniki on Mondays and Fridays. Earlier this month easyJet celebrated its landmark five millionth passenger at Manchester Airport and introduced a twice weekly flight to Tel Aviv.