An uptick in package holiday sales for summer 2022 has given Jet2.com and Jet2holidays confidence next summer will be a "considerable improvement" on summers 2020 and 2021 – both of which have been decimated by the Covid crisis.
The airline and operator cut a bullish tone on Thursday (8 July) despite posting a full-year (2020/21) annual loss of £373.8 million during what chair Philip Meeson described as a "period of unparalleled operational and financial challenges", a swing of some £638 million from a £264.2 million pre-pandemic annual profit.
The group said preserving cash became its top priority during the pandemic; it ended its full-year to 31 March with total cash amounting to £1.379 billion and own cash of £1.061 million.
However, Jet2 plc said its actions since then – which include securing in excess of another £500 million liquidity – had pushed its total cash balance to £1.908 million and own cash to £1.460 million. This is despite processing more than £1.4 billion in Covid refunds.
Jet2 said its cash conscience approach had positioned the firm well for a swift and strong recovery from the Covid crisis, with its aircraft fully grounded for more than half (29 weeks) of the 2020/21 financial year – and restricted to a "significantly reduced programme" at other times.
As a result, Jet2.com flew 1.32 million flight-only passengers in the year to 31 March 2021, down 91% year-on-year from 14.62 million (year to 31 March 2020); package holiday passengers, meanwhile, fell 90% over the same period from 3.77 million to 0.37 million.
However, Jet2 said it was confident holidaymakers’ appetite to travel with "financially strong, resilient and trusted operators" would increase as the UK exits the pandemic. The group revealed package bookings for summer 2022 were already constituting a "materially higher" proportion of its bookings.
Meeson paid tribute to the "tireless" work of Jet2 staff during the Covid crisis to date and the business’s swift transition to a homeworking model. However, owing to the impact of the pandemic on its summer 2020 operations and its subsequent "cautious approach" to summer 2021, which saw Jet2 commit early to pausing all operations until late-June, Meeson revealed 546 members of staff had been made redundant.
Meeson also reiterated his and Jet2’s disappointment with the level of ambition with regards to the resumption of international travel detailed in the April report of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which Meeson said lacked "depth and detail".
He also said the traffic light system now governing the resumption of international travel "had only served to confuse rather than clarify" the situation for passengers.
However, he added: "The recent announcement of an expanded ’green watchlist’ and the potential relaxing of restrictions for those who are double vaccinated to be able to travel to amber list destinations without having to quarantine on return, was a welcome step in the right direction, demonstrating that the UK government is committed to reopening international travel.
Looking ahead, Meeson said the group’s performance for its 2021/22 financial year would be dependent on the level of flying permitted during the rest of the summer 2021 season, with the outlook for the second half of the year (October to end of March 2022) still unclear.
"Unsurprisingly, given the continuing short-term uncertainty, customers are booking significantly closer to departure for summer 2021 and, although bookings to date for winter 2021/22 are satisfactory, they have slowed more recently given the ongoing speculation around international travel," said Meeson.
"Bookings for summer 2022, for which package holiday bookings are displaying a materially higher mix of the total, are encouraging and with the vaccination progress being made, we are optimistic summer 2022 will be a considerable improvement on both summer 2020 and summer 2021."