Jet2holidays has pushed back its restart date by more than a month to June 24 in response to publication of the Global Travel Taskforce report which the tour operator says “doesn’t give us anything”
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast after the taskforce’s report was published, chief executive Steve Heapy confirmed the change – saying that to aim to restart in May was “not fair” on customers, travel agents and staff.
He said: “My initial reaction is disappointment, to be honest.
“After five weeks of the Global Travel Taskforce putting together the report they’ve come up with something that isn’t an awful lot different in structure to that we had in place last summer.
“They’ve committed to looking at cheaper tests but there’s no real detail.
“We are trying to run an airline, and we don’t know when we can start flying, where we can start flying to and the conditions under which we are operating.”
Heapy said Jet2 wasn’t expecting the traffic list destinations to be published, but wanted to see more detail in the taskforce’s report.
He explained that to resume on May 17, as previously planned: “We’d have to recruit loads of seasonal staff in the UK, loads of seasonal staff in every one of the 50-odd destinations we fly to, and we might not be flying there for two or three months.
“We’d have the cost base of a fully operational airline and potentially not flying. It’s just not sustainable.”
He stressed: “I’m very disappointed in what’s in there. It doesn’t really give us anything.”
Heapy said that the taskforce publishing the green list in ‘early May’, as it intends to, was “not enough notice” for a May 17 restart.
All considered, he confirmed: “It’s with a heavy heart that I’m pushing the restart date back, to June 24.
“There’s too much uncertainty. It’s not fair on our travel agent colleagues who are having to field queries from customers saying ‘what’s happening?’. It’s not fair on customers, and it’s not fair on staff.
“People can handle good news and people can handle bad news but the killer, very often, is uncertainty. And there’s just uncertainty everywhere.
“I’m getting the increasing feeling the can is just being kicked down the road. It’s a bit like being in the TV programme Bullseye – come and look at what you could have won.
“You reach a milestone and then they say ‘ah, yes but we’ve got to be sure of this.’ I’m not really sure who’s running the country. I’m getting really frustrated, and I’ve tried to stay calm.”
“The only thing to do is wait for some clarity and put the date back. I’m very sorry for people who are not going to get their holiday, but I think – under the circumstances – people would probably rather rebook for a later period rather than spend £500 on PCR tests.”
Heapy accepted another wave of refunds was likely, but said Jet2holidays would give money back to customers affected by the cancellations, “no questions asked” and said that had been the operator’s policy throughout the Covid crisis.