Jet2 Holidays takes Europe’s No1 tour operator slot

Bernie Baldwin

The team arrived in Tangier in a positive mood, celebrating both the airline’s 20th anniversary and its position as Europe’s leading tour operator.

Ian Doubtfire, director of sustainability & business development, and Jet2 Holidays, explained that the UK CAA requires the company to submit a bond to guarantee and protect the passengers. “Our bond, because of the number of bookings we’ve made, has had to rise to 5.85 million passengers, which makes us the highest tour operator in the UK. Effectively, the bond tells the world we’re going to be carrying more than 11 million passengers this year,” he confirmed.

New Airbus aircraft will enable this growth. Jet2 ordered 36 A321neos in August 2021 and another 15 shortly after. In October 2022, the airline placed an incremental order for 35 A320neos. The A321neos will have 232 seats; the A320neos will have 180.

Options on further aircraft mean that Jet2 has commitments for up to 146 aircraft, deliveries of which stretch through to 2031. “These are the first Airbuses we’ve ordered. We’re mainly a Boeing operator at the moment, although we have three A321ceos, which we took on after Thomas Cook left the scene,” he noted.

By choosing A320neo family aircraft, the airline can operate slightly longer legs. While that may mean being able to reach airports further afield, it is not where the purchase decision came from. “We’ve only looked at longer sectors to a limited extent. We’ve really built up the order on the basis of our existing programme,” Doubtfire confirmed. “On high density routes, we need the biggest aircraft we can. Timings are very critical for people, so we’re using the bigger aircraft on core routes.”

When demand on routes gets really high, which occurs on many services out of Manchester, the carrier leases in A300 aircraft. “These have between 327 and 388 seats, so we can provide the right capacity the right time,” Doubtfire remarked.

As for route development, where the Jet2 team acknowledges the benefit of CONNECT in negotiations, some new routes start this year. “A good example is Tivat in Montenegro. But we’re also expanding the existing route structure to and from all the bases. Take Athens. From this spring we’re starting to fly there from Stansted all year round. That will add to the services to Athens from other bases. We’re strong in the eastern and western Mediterranean. The two big areas for us are Spain and Greece.”

From a base of sea and sun places, Jet2 has built its city break destinations. “We are the biggest provider of all-inclusive package holidays for city breaks, we specialise in that,” stated Doubtfire. “We fly to the big cities like Paris, Rome, Budapest, and then in the Christmas period we fly to the Christmas markets in Vienna, Berlin, Cologne and similar places, before heading to ski resorts during the winter.”

Janice Mather, head of airports & tourism organisations for & Jet2holidays, added that, for this year, the network covers more than 450 routes to over 65 overseas destinations, including over 600 resorts across 21 countries. “It’s a very big operation for us. We have 10 UK bases, led by Manchester, which has 23 based aircraft. The other big bases – Stansted, Birmingham – are quite substantial,” she commented.

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5-7 Jun 2024