Mark Casci: How Jet2.com is bucking the trend to become a genuine high flying business

Leading leisure airline Jet2.com has launched a recruitment drive.
Leading leisure airline Jet2.com has launched a recruitment drive.
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The airline industry has hardly had an easy ride of late has it?

A series of international events have rocked the hugely profitable sector to its core.

Philip Meeson with a Jet2.com Plane

Philip Meeson with a Jet2.com Plane

Starting with the Sharm-el-Sheikh Metrojet bombing, followed by further terrorist attacks in mainland Europe and then the vote for Brexit, it has been a turbulent time for the sector, with the latter event seeing the value of the shares of airlines tumbling. Earlier this month EasyJet was the subject of takeover speculation regarding alleged plans to purchase a German airline, a matter which saw staff threaten to instigate strike action.

And today it is Monarch in the headlines, following more speculation about its profitability. Greybull Capital is understood to be in discussions with Chinese firm HNA Group, the company behind Hainan Airlines, about a potential deal, with others seeking to join the queue if the deal does not transpire. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), estimated that British air-passenger numbers could fall by 3-5 per cent over the next four years as holidaymakers increasingly eschew foreign travel.

However it is not all bad news in the sector. Jet2.com, based at Leeds Bradford Airport, is one of the region’s main business success stories this year. Last week marked a major step on their ongoing expansion with the launch of flights and holidays from London Stansted Airport. It now operates from nine airports and crucially now has a foothold in the South of England.

Chief executive Steve Heapy, told journalists at the time that it was “an incredibly exciting chapter in our history as it marks the day we bring our family friendly formula to the south of England and become a truly national brand”.

Jet2.com

Jet2.com

It comes hot on the heels of its announcement that it was to create an astonishing 1,000 jobs next year with the recruitment of new pilot positions, cabin crew and engineers.

The roles will be spread across the country with 135 of them here in Yorkshire and are being created due to the anticipated huge surge in demand for 2017 as it handles more and more passengers. And then of course there is the small matter of its increase in profits this year to £104.2m It is a far cry from just eight years ago when the firm issued profit warnings amid falling passenger numbers. So where did it all go right?

It is now 10 years since the firm relocated from its birthplace of Bournemouth to Yorkshire and for virtually all of this period the firm has had a consistent leadership team based around executive chairman Philip Meeson and Mr Heapy with the former bringing the firm under the control of the parent company Dart Group. Together these businessmen have grown Jet2.com organically and kept pace with what the fast-moving holiday market demanded. Low fares were the selling point of many of its competitors and so Jet2.com went in another direction, offering not only cheap flights but cheap holidays as a package.

Jet2holidays proved a resounding success, with a range of well-priced family destinations proving a successful revenue driver for the firm. The business has acted more and more like a big player and taken well-executed steps to up its profile. Whilst maintaining its base at Leeds Bradford Airport it cemented its position in Yorkshire with the opening of new Leeds city centre base at The Mint, housing its back office functions. It has also maintained a commitment to developing its staff with a multi-million pound training academy on the outskirts of Bradford. The Brexit vote has not registered any effect its leadership team claims and a commitment to increase its head count by 20 per cent is indicative of its direction of travel.

Philip Meeson, managing director of Jet2.com

Philip Meeson, managing director of Jet2.com

When you bear in mind the firm started with just two aircraft little over 13 years ago it is a remarkable success story and the company is quietly becoming a genuine high flier.