EasyJet’s boss is to meet with transport secretary Chris Grayling in the next few weeks to recommend stable airlines should not be penalised through seat levies for the risk posed by those carriers with weaker balance sheets.
The airline’s chief executive officer, Johan Lundgren, told ITT delegates in Split that the government’s proposed levy of 49p per passenger for those booking flight-only was unfair on airlines who pose “significantly less risk” of going bust than others.
“If there is to be a protection scheme, it needs to be risk-based,” he insisted in an interview with TTG editor Sophie Griffiths. “EasyJet has the second strongest balance sheet in aviation in Europe; why should we pay the same amount when the risk of us going bust is significantly less than others?”
“We should pay zero,” he suggested.
Lundgren added that “almost everyone in this industry knows when a company is in trouble”, and government regulators had a responsibility to “do better due diligence”.
A DfT spokesperson said: “We are considering the range of options put forward by the independent Airline Insolvency Review, and will work to swiftly introduce the reforms needed to secure the right balance between strong consumer protection and the interests of taxpayers.
“We welcome any views on the report’s recommendations and encourage stakeholders to respond as part of the ongoing consultation on Aviation 2050, which closes on 20 June.”
Asked whether the forthcoming relaunch of easyJet Holidays included a strategy to sell through agents, Lundgren said the operator’s chief executive Garry Wilson will be “having discussions” with retailers about how the operator might work with the trade, and underlined that easyJet “completely recognises the value of the trade”.
He confirmed that the operator will have agreed direct contracts with 500 hotels by May 2020, and claimed that the operator need only convert those 19.5 million of the airline’s total 100 million annual passengers who currently book their accommodation with another provider, in order to be successful.
Lundgren also blasted airlines that are “choosing” not to be more pro-active on environmental impact. He said he would not longer defend the aviation industry against criticism of its overall carbon emissions if certain airlines continued to operate irresponsibly.
“We are one of the most efficient airlines in Europe but we are competing against companies that are 20-30% worse than us and airlines running with much older fleets,” he argued. “I will no longer defend the industry as a whole as long as that continues.”
He warned that environmental concerns will not only make consumers take other forms of transport than flying, but also impact the travel companies they choose to travel with.
The easyJet boss – who famously took a voluntary pay cut when he joined the company to match that of his female predecessor – also reinforced the company’s focus on gender diversity, including training more female pilots.
“It is not only simply the right thing to do,” he pointed out. “When there is a supposed national shortage of pilots, it makes no sense to talk only to half of the population.”
“There are some who have asked ’is being a pilot appropriate for a young mother?’, yet 70% of our cabin crew are female and work exactly the same hours. There are a lot of myths about this that we are spending time destroying.”
He encouraged ITT delegates to attend TTG’s Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference taking place on Wednesday 3 July at the QEII Centre in London, at which easyJet’s UK manager Sophie Dekkers will be speaking.