Tui Airways hopes to bring the “majority” of long-haul flights back by October, until when it now has the flexibility to add “glamour” to its European programme by deploying wide-bodied aircraft on short-haul routes.
Managing director Dawn Wilson said she hoped the “majority” of routes would be back in operation by the end of October but accepted there were “challenges” ahead and that a second wave of Covid-19 could set that plan back.
Speaking to Travel Weekly in Ibiza on a media trip to promote Tui’s resumption, Wilson said: “As we go through the summer, the government will try to open up more routes. We would imagine some of our long-haul routes will be among those to reopen and we’re hopeful that the majority will be open in October.”
Wilson said Tui Airways was “lobbying really hard” for the return of more Caribbean destinations but conceded there were “challenges” in restarting flights to the US, particularly Florida – to which Tui has pushed back the relaunch of its holiday programme.
On the use of widebodied aircraft on short-haul routes, she said: “We will use aircraft around the group accordingly, which gives us an advantage [over smaller companies]
“If we can get the load factors high enough there’s no reason we can’t get those wide-bodied aircraft on those short-haul routes.”
She explained how using 787 Dreamliners on short-haul routes allows Tui to offer premium seating on routes that might not otherwise have that option. However, she noted that not every airport could cater for the larger aircraft as they require runways of a minimum length and some have ‘obstacles’ that prevent the use of Dreamliners.
“Our customers love the 787,” she added. “It’s big and it has the premium cabins. So it adds a bit of glamour. A certain je ne sais quoi.”
On Saturday July 11, Tui’s first day back flying, a flight from Gatwick to Ibiza was 95% full with 179 passengers; a Gatwick to Palma flight was 99% full with 297 passengers; a Manchester to Palma was 95% full with 180 passengers; a Manchester to Ibiza flight was full with 346 passengers; and a Birmingham to Palma flight was 85% full at 161 passengers.
“It’s been heart-breaking to see our cabin crew on the ground,” she added. “They are so happy to be flying again. You could see that on our first flights back.”