AVIATION entrepreneur Philip Meeson is creating nearly 200 new jobs in Yorkshire as he expands his airline and holiday business into new offices in Leeds.
The Dart Group 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.
Mr Meeson told the Yorkshire Post that he expects to sell 800,000 all-inclusive package holidays this year. “We are almost doubling the number of people we send on package holidays over last year,” he said.
The group is moving its customer contact centre, finance, IT and human resource operations to the new office, which will eventually be home to nearly 700 people.
Mr Meeson said: “It’s going to be great for the staff and for attracting new staff as we grow our business. Leeds is a great city for recruiting skilled people.”
He added that selling all-inclusive package holidays to the Mediterranean, Canaries and major European cities is a complicated task which requires attention to detail.
Mr Meeson said: “It’s going to be a great opportunity for people with talent, energy and dedication to come and work in an expanding company.
“It’s a great vote of confidence in Leeds and it’s great that we are in a city with great amenities. The city has a well-trained and hard-working workforce.”
Mr Meeson added: “It’s an investment in the future. It’s continuing investment in our companies and aeroplanes and it’s investing in the growth of our business.
“It’s a reflection of the support we have had for our holidays and flights to the sun and of the great people we are able to employ in Yorkshire, which is also a reflection of the education and university system in Yorkshire.”
Mr Meeson 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 with the move of functions to Leeds, said Mr Meeson.
Mr Meeson is the founder, executive chairman and 40 per cent main shareholder of the Dart Group, owner of Jet2.Com, Jet2holidays and the Fowler Welch distribution and logistics business.
With sales of £683m in the year ending March 2012, the group is one of Yorkshire’s largest businesses.
It is also a major employer with nearly 5,000 staff across Britain and Europe, including 1,600 in Yorkshire. The airline and holiday business employ 3,400 people.
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.
In an interview earlier this year to mark the 10th anniversary of Jet2.com, Mr Meeson told the Yorkshire Post: “In these very difficult financial times, the package holiday has to be a product that people really want.
“The package holiday, when you’re short of cash, when you’re worried about job security, is such a fantastic product.
“If you are working every day in an office, or a shop or a pub or factory, at any level, you really look forward to those days beside the pool in Faro.” He maintains that the package holiday was invented in the North of England.
In January, Mr Meeson promoted key lieutenant Steve Heapy, formerly managing director and chief commercial officer, to become 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.
“2012 has been a great year for both businesses and we are going to have some exciting things planned for 2013.”
The Mint let 38,000 sq ft to Leeds-based supermarket giant Asda in 2011.