Jet2 boss Steve Heapy talks Liverpool, Bournemouth …and Alex Ferguson

Steve Heapy interview
By Linsey McNeill
02/04/2024
Home » Jet2 boss Steve Heapy talks Liverpool, Bournemouth …and Alex Ferguson

Just as Jet2 was preparing for the launch of its first ever flights from Liverpool, boss Steve Heapy announced it will open a 12th UK base, at Bournemouth Airport, in 2025. Travel Gossip caught up with the CEO to find out what’s next for the UK’s biggest package holiday operator.

While Steve isn’t talking to any other airports ‘at the moment’, he said he hasn’t ruled out opening more UK bases. “I wouldn’t say Bournemouth will be the last,” he said, but he declined to say where might be next on Jet2’s wish list.

He would ‘possibly’ like to fly from Gatwick, he said, but since that’s currently full, it’s not an option. When asked if Luton might be an alternative London base, Steve said: “Luton is not too far from Stansted, we have a big base at Stansted, Luton is a very busy airport, I think I would rather keep building up the operation at Stansted than start Luton, but you never know, never say never.”

He added: “You never know what happens, you could have carriers that depart an airport, or you could have an airport expansion etc, we look at opportunities all the time. I think one of the fundamentals of good business is being flexible and being able to react to events.”

Looking at Jet2’s existing airports, Steve said there was a ‘strong investment case’ at a number of them. “It’s influenced by customer demand really and we are seeing very good demand from our customers and from new customers we are winning from other companies that have taken them on holiday before.

“If demand continues to be very strong then we would look very seriously at doing more routes etc. We don’t have a very fixed three-year plan and say ‘this is it, we’ll follow it’. You react to market conditions, customer needs etc and see what the landscape is like.”

Jet2 has already announced an expansion at Liverpool for 2025 following better than expected sales. Next summer, it will base an additional aircraft at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, from where it will offer 23 destinations, up from 20 this summer.

“We were pretty impressed with the sales after we launched,” added Steve. “Because of that, we put a fifth aircraft on sale for 2025. We have got three new routes. It is looking good. We are getting lots of feedback saying it’s great that you are putting more capacity on.”

In Bournemouth, Jet2 will go head-to-head with rivals TUI and Ryanair on all but two of its 16 routes for summer ’25, but Steve said he doesn’t believe this will spark a price war. “Bournemouth is a big catchment area, lots of people want to go on holiday from Bournemouth Airport, I think there is enough capacity to go round. 

“The prices that are charged are reflective of market conditions, it’s simple economics. Strong demand or weak demand will influence the prices. All things being equal, the prices will be similar to other places.

“Every airport has incumbent carriers and we do market research, we speak to travel agents and to customers and the airport and make an assessment as to whether we can make a good profitable operation for us and a great service to our customers and we concluded that we can.”

Steve said it’s his faith in Jet2’s customer service that makes him confident Jet2 will remain agents’ favourite tour operator, despite rival TUI recently improving its commercial terms with independent retailers. Earlier this week, Jet2 won four Travel Gossip Awards for Agents’ Favourite Airline, Favourite Trade Brand, Favourite Short-haul Operator and Favourite Trade Sales Team.

“Customer service is, and always has been and always will be king, or queen obviously, in our business. It is at the centre of everything that we do,” said Steve.“We will do seven million ATOL sales this year, we are very highly regarded by our customers and by our travel agent partners. TUI are making nice overtures to travel agents, how long is that going to last? How many times have they done it in the last few years?

“Our strategy [with travel agents] has remained the same for 15 years and, to draw a football analogy, you don’t change your formation every week depending on who your opposition is, you stick with the format like Alex Ferguson did, four-four-two, bang bang bang, very successful, like Liverpool in the 1970s, four-four-two, you have your formation and you play your own game. 

“TUI are doing something and then they’ll change, then they’ll do something else. They’re being nice to travel agents, I don’t know how long it will last, maybe it will last forever, maybe it won’t, it’s never lasted forever before, so let’s see, but we are concentrating on our game, providing award-winning customer service.

“We have spent 15 years building very strong relationships with independent agents and it’s a two-way relationship built on trust and respect.”

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