Jet2.com and Jet2holidays parent Dart Group has vowed to emerge from the coronavirus crisis "ever stronger" despite the "significant challenges" currently facing the leisure travel sector.
Dart on Thursday (9 July) posted a record full-year profit (year to 31 March 2020) of £264.2 million before exceptional costs relating to the pandemic, up 50% from £175.6 million in 2019/20.
However, accounting for hedge ineffectiveness, worth £108.4 million alone, as well as foreign exchange revaluation and taxation from continuing operations, Dart’s full-year 2020/21 profit came in at £147.7 million, down 11% year-on-year from £166.5 million.
Trade bookings increased four percentage points in the year to 31 March to 28% versus direct bookings, resulting in an increase in commission paid out to agents, which Dart said had arisen from "strategic investment" in trade partners.
"The beginning of the new financial year has brought significant challenges for the entire leisure travel industry," said Dart in a trading update on Thursday.
"Group performance for the financial year ending 31 March 2021 is largely dependent on the level of flying permitted for the remainder of the summer 2020 period, as well as performance in the second half of the 2021 financial year, periods for which we currently still have limited visibility."
Dart said despite the ongoing uncertainty, monthly load factors for winter 2020/21 were "satisfactory", while bookings for summer 2021 were "encouraging" and featured a "materially increased" mix of higher margin package holiday sales.
The group said actions taken to balance books and protect cash would allow the business to emerge from the coronavirus crisis "in a stable commercial position" ready to "capitalise on the upturn opportunity when it arrives".
Dart has lent on the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, securing eligibility for a £300 million commercial loan if required.
The group also raised more than £170 million from a new share placing, and sold its distribution and logistics business Fowler Welch for £98 million – all of which has contributed to help build substantial cash headroom and focus its attentions solely on the leisure travel sector.
Following a reassessment of its 2020 and 2021 flying programmes, the group has confirmed this will result in a number of redundancies – including up to 100 pilots and 400 cabin crew, it is understood.
Dart said despite the uncertainties associated with coronavirus, it would continue to dedicate "significant resources" to its package holiday operation, with a renewed focus on package travel versus flight-only.
"While flight-only remains very important, our higher margin package holiday business has tremendous further potential," said the group, adding it was confident it would emerge from the crisis "an even stronger company".