British sun seekers fuel growth at Jet2 airline and holiday firm

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DIRE British weather is driving sales at airline Jet2.com and package holiday business Jet2holidays.

Jet2 parent company Dart Group said its annual profits will beat expectations thanks to better than anticipated winter losses as people flee the UK in search of winter sunshine.

Chairman and chief executive Philip Meeson reported an increase in bookings to winter sun destinations such as Alicante and Benidorm.

“Spain is always a very popular destination, but the Canaries are particularly popular this year as the sun is always shining,” he said.

“Terrible UK weather really helps the business.”

The Leeds-based company said 2014 forward booking levels at Jet2.com are in line with the 13 per cent increase in capacity for summer 2013.

Jet2.com has been boosted by the expansion of Jet2holidays and Mr Meeson said the business will sell 800,000 all-inclusive packages this year, double the number last year.

“All-inclusive package holidays are really popular,” said Mr Meeson.

“The holiday is great value, it’s assured and ATOL bonded so if anything goes wrong you can rely on the Government to sort it out.

“We’re using our negotiating power to buy hotel accommodation. We can do it cheaper than people can do it themselves,” he added.

Dart said that trading is satisfactory at its Fowler Welch division, one of the UK’s leading distribution and logistics providers, and the business is well placed for profitable growth.

In a trading update yesterday the group said it is developing and building its businesses and it is cautiously optimistic about its ability to increase profits in the current financial year, despite the tough economic environment.

Analyst Peter Ashworth, at Charles Stanley, said: “This morning’s update highlights that profit will be ahead of current market expectations as a result of lower winter losses.

“The shares have performed well over the last year, rising by 105 per cent, outperforming 
the FTSE All-Share by 86 per 
cent.

“This update represents further good news for the group and the previous rating of 8.0x remains too low.”

Earlier this month Dart said it will create nearly 200 new jobs in Yorkshire following the opening of new offices in Leeds.

Dart is taking several floors at The Mint block in Holbeck for its fast-growing Jet2holidays business after running out of room at the group’s headquarters at Leeds Bradford Airport.

The group is moving its customer contact centre, finance, IT and human resource operations to the new office.

Mr Meeson, Dart’s founder and 40 per cent main shareholder, relocated the group from Bournemouth to Leeds in 2006.

The head office is at Low Fare Finder House at Leeds Bradford Airport.

The group will be able to devote more space to the operational side at the airport after moving functions to Leeds.

Last year, Jet2.com carried more than five million customers. The airline operates from eight bases across the UK and flies to more than 50 destinations.

With sales of £683m in the year ending March 2012, it is one of Yorkshire’s largest businesses and employs nearly 5,000 staff across Britain and Europe, including 1,600 in Yorkshire. The airline and holiday business employ 3,400 people.

In January, Mr Meeson promoted key lieutenant Steve Heapy, formerly managing director and chief commercial officer, to chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays.

Mr Heapy said: “2013 is set to be another significant year of growth as we build on the success of last year, which saw the introduction of lots of exciting new destinations, increased capacity, as well as the great value flights and holidays we have become renowned for across the North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Our priority as ever remains focused on delivering holidays to the best sun, city and ski destinations and making sure our loyal customers have the best choice and service available.”