EasyJet has reaffirmed its commitment to working with the travel trade when it relaunches easyJet Holidays later this year.
Garry Wilson, easyJet Holidays chief executive, told reporters on Tuesday (19 November) the airline’s holidays division was in the process of establishing links with agents.
However, responding to questioning from TTG, Wilson declined to confirm when easyJet Holidays product would be made available to the trade to book.
“We are in conversation with a number of agents, but one of the important messages we should give is it has to be right for us,” said Wilson, who added the operator – which it was confirmed on Tuesday will launch “before Christmas” – would make a further announcement on progress with the trade at a later date.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren, meanwhile, said easyJet firmly believed travel agencies “definitely had a role to play”, adding Wilson was engaging with the industry to see what any potential trade agreements could look like.
Holidays product will include more than 5,000 hotels spanning in excess of 100 beach and city destinations.
While EasyJet has declined to put a firm number on its Atol plans for easyJet Holidays, the company has repeatedly stressed it expects to become “a major player” in the package holiday market.
Its Atol currently stands at just shy of 800,000 passengers, but this can – and is expected to be – adjusted up as its holiday operation develops over the coming year, ahead of the September 2020 Atol renewal window.
Wilson’s comments, meanwhile, came after easyJet posted a full-year pre-tax profit for the 12 months to 30 September of £427 million, down 26% on last year from £578 million.
Lundgren said it had been a “difficult year” for the carrier, impacted by Brexit uncertainty, weaker consumer demand and soaring fuel prices.
However, Lundgren said he was confident easyJet Holidays would break even in its first year, and stressed the venture would have been a success even if Thomas Cook had been saved.
“Package holidays are a growing market which is in no way, shape, or form in decline,” he said. “The package holiday industry is worth £60 billion, £13 billion in the UK.
“There are companies who have done it well and companies who haven’t, but either way, it is a healthy market.”
Lundgren said the December launch is not linked to the sudden collapse of Thomas Cook, stressing the project had long been in development before 23 September.
“I think it’s fair to say we are sad to see these things happen because they [Cook] were big players for many years,” said Lundgren.
“At the same time, with the timing of the launch, there are a lot of hoteliers who have suffered and governments across Europe wanting to see how we can work together.
“We would have been successful with or without any other competitors.”