Abta 18: EasyJet holidays to work with agents

An expanded easyJet Holidays is prepared to sell through travel agents but the offshoot will not become a major tour operator player such as Jet2holidays, according to chief executive Johan Lundgren.

However, speaking at the Abta Travel Convention in Seville, the former Tui chief revealed that he had poached Jet2 head of web and e-commerce James Hardy to head the low-cost carrier’s digital unit.

Lundgren described agents as providing a “meaningful service” and said many already sell easyJet.

“If there are travel agents out there who would like to be part of this story, we would like to have that discussion,” he said.

Further plans for the structure of the enlarged holidays arm of the budget carrier are due to be unveiled next week.

Lundgren said discussions were underway with hotel chains and individual properties to partner with the airline to expand the holidays brand which was introduced three years ago.

He pointed out that the easyJet website attracts 350 million unique visitors a year and was a “fantastic opportunity for distribution”.

Lundgren also confirmed that the airline was interested in parts of Alitalia and talks were continuing.

He also warned of other failures in the sector following the collapses of Air Berlin, Monarch and Primera Air most recently as weaker carriers struggle under the pressure of soaring fuel prices.

“Consolidation is going to come about with weaker players. We will see more failures,” said Lundgren, who took the helm of the UK low cost carrier ten months ago.

Airlines exposed to higher oil prices who have not hedged against price hikes should be worried, he added.

He declined to comment on claims by Michael O’Leary, chief executive of rival Ryanair, that pilots from other airlines were orchestrating strikes at the Irish carrier.

But Lundgren admitted that easyJet had had a good year due to the “benign environment” prompted by such industrial action and other airline failures.

“We have pilots who fly out aeroplanes,” he said pointedly.

Lundgren was also optimistic that Brexit would not lead to a breakdown in air links between the UK and continental Europe.

While conceding that easyJet had contingency plans in place to handle all outcomes, he said: “Planes will be flying. We are preparing for every scenario but everyone wants connectivity.”

It would be “inconceivable” for politicians on both sides to put the aviation industry in a situation where people would not be able to go on holiday or continue to take business flights.

He also backed plans for a third runway at Heathrow and pledged to sell flights at lower fares than incumbents if easyJet was allowed access to the London hub headquarters of competitor British Airways.

“We will be able to sell flights at lower costs,” Lundgren confirmed.

Travel Weekly is trade media partner of The Travel Convention.
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