Atol figures reveal emergence of a ‘big three’

Jet2’s rapid expansion has seen it close in on Thomas Cook, creating a new ‘big three’ in travel, latest Atol data reveals.

The operator’s new licence is 45% bigger than its previous Atol and allows it to carry 2.27 million passengers in the 12 months to September 30 next year.

The Atol permits it to carry just 263,000 fewer passengers than Thomas Cook, whose licensed capacity has fallen by 19% from around 3.25 million to 2.54 million for the year from October 1.

The steep drop reflects Cook’s focus on higher-margin business and a lower forecast for this year. Tui is out on its own with a licence for 5.3 million passengers, more than double Cook’s figures.

Jet2 has announced significant expansion this year, adding bases in Birmingham and Stansted.

Alistair Rowland, Midcounties Co-operative group general manager, said: “The march of Jet2 continues unabated. We should certainly be talking about a big three.”

Rowland added Monarch’s continued presence in the top 10 was positive for the industry. He said he hoped the airline would be “able to push up against” the big three.

The Atol figures also reveal how big Gold Medal and Travel 2 parent dnata Travel UK now is, with the Emirates-owned firm’s portfolio of brands – including Travel Republic, retailer Travelbag and agency consortium The Global Travel Group – together claiming fifth place on the list, behind Expedia.

The Monarch Group, which has three Atol licences, has fallen to sixth place from third last year, as it “normalises” its Atol arrangements by taking out flight-only sales.

Until this September’s renewal, when Monarch was granted a 12-day extension to complete a £165 million refinancing, flight‑only sales were covered as part of its previous Atol deal.

The top 10 also includes OTAs On the Beach, in seventh, with just over one million passengers, British Airways Holidays, with 893,000, and Love Holidays, with 400,093.

BA’s eighth spot underlines the growing importance of not just long-haul but mainstream holiday sales for the airline.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA parent International Airlines Group, said last week: “It’s good for us to have that business because it gives us a greater sense of some of the consumer trends ex-UK, in light of the sterling devaluation.”

Squeezing into the top 10 is Teletext Travel owner Truly Travel thanks to its recent acquisition of Alpharooms. Elsewhere in the top 20, Hays Travel’s combined figure for its tour operation and agency group rank it 17th, ahead of Saga, Flight Centre and Hotelplan.

Top 20 Atol-holders

Licensed passenger numbers for year to September 30, 2017

1 Tui UK 5.34 million
2 Thomas Cook (Future Travel, The Freedom Travel Group)* 2.54 million
3 Jet2holidays 2.27 million
4 Expedia 1.42 million
5 dnata UK (Travel Republic, Travel 2, Gold Medal, Travelbag) 1.29 million
6 Monarch (First Aviation,Cosmos, Avro) 1.17 million
7 On the Beach 1.10 million
8 BA Holidays 893,000
9 Love Holidays 400,000
10 Truly Travel/Alpharooms 379,000
11 Southall Travel 359,000
12 (BravoNext) 340,000
13 Virgin Holidays 338,000
14 Trailfinders 300,000
15 Broadway Travel 284,000
16 Olympic Holidays (Travelworld) 250,000
17 Hays Travel 211,000
18 Saga 190,000
19 Flight Centre 177,000
20 Hotelplan (Inghams) 173,000

*Thomas Cook/The Co-operative Travelretail joint venture in 67th place is licensedto carry 39,000

Figures rounded

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