Jet2 boss Steve Heapy says he hasn’t ruled out launching a long-haul programme, but he said finding the right time to enter the market is key.
The CEO of the UK’s biggest package holiday operator said that, for the time being, he was focused on growing in the Mediterranean.
Speaking in conversation with Jet2 Travel Agent Relationships Director Alan Cross on stage during Barrhead Travel’s conference in Palma, Steve said: “At the moment we don’t have a plan to do long-haul. We are focusing on the Med – Greece, Turkey – there’s a lot more we can do in other destinations as well.”
But he added that long-haul was a possibility ‘maybe in the future’.
When asked why it wasn’t on the cards now, Steve said: “The most important element that we don’t have is the aircraft.”
He said Jet2 could pick up aircraft ‘reasonably cheaply’, but these would be older jets with 25% more fuel consumption than modern jets, pushing up operating costs. It’s difficult to buy new aircraft now at decent prices because manufacturers order books have filled up post-pandemic, he added.
Jet2 negotiated an order with Airbus during the pandemic for 146 A321Neo aircraft, which are 22% more fuel-efficient than its existing aircraft, and they each carry 53 more passengers. Two have been delivered and the airline will receive a further 12 a year for the next 12 years, but the A321s are not capable of flying as far as destinations like the Caribbean.
To order five long-haul Boeing 787s would set Jet2 back around £1bn, said Steve. “We are not averse to taking risks, but it is about building a business case and getting the timing right.”
However, he said was ‘encouraged’ that when agents were asked if they would like Jet2 to offer a long-haul programme, almost all those at the Barrhead conference session put their hands up.
Meanwhile, Steve confirmed that Jet2 has no plans to open its own travel agencies, saying: “With partners like Barrhead, why would we? We don’t need to.
“Why would we open a shop opposite Barrhead? The last thing we want to do is work in competition with independent agents.”
Steve added: “I can give a cast iron commitment we will never open a high street agent,” which received a round of applause.
He also reassured agents that ‘nothing will change’ in how it works with its partners, despite its growth plans.
In an obvious dig at rival operators, he said: “We won’t change anything because we are bigger. We won’t do what others have done and start abusing our power. We will still be the same, nothing changes whatsoever.
“We will keep the relationships with our travel agent partners and our hotel partners and build bigger, better, stronger relationships.”