3 DECEMBER 2018
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The December SOAPBOX features Johan Lundgren previously deputy chief executive and chief executive for mainstream markets at the European tour operator TUI. The company said in his time there he increased profitability by some 48% from £370m to £546m between 2011 and 2014. Lundgren began his career with Swedish travel group Fritidsresor, which was eventually acquired by TUI Travel.
Last weekend marked exactly a year since I took over the CEO role at easyJet. I was really pleased to discover that easyJet on the inside is what I thought it would be from the outside.
When I joined, people told me about Orange years – that every year at easyJet feels like double that anywhere else and that has certainly been the case (in a good way!).
From the outset, I was very clear that I wanted to take time to meet and listen to people both inside and outside the company and so since then I have spent significant time with stakeholders, investors, suppliers, partners, regulators, customers and, of course, easyJet employees.
I have also spent a lot of time understanding where we have come from, but even more importantly how to evolve the airline to capture more of the opportunities that exist.
All this confirmed my early observation that easyJet is a company with many unique strengths and with many opportunities to capture.
As is often the case in this industry, it has certainly been an eventful 12 months.
It has been tough for many airlines with the demise of Cobalt, Primera and Small Planet to name a few. There have also been headwinds for the whole industry in the form of disruption (including an unprecedented 29 days of air traffic control strikes) and, according to Eurocontrol in October, there were 16.9m minutes of en route delays in the year from January to the end of September, compared with 9.3m minutes in the whole of 2017.
But the challenges aside, I am really proud to be able to say that, while many airlines have struggled, easyJet has bucked the trend with a really strong 2018 with headline profit before tax up 41% – record profits in fact if you take out the expansion into Tegel.
And crucially we have also having attracted a record number of customers who also are increasingly loyal to us. I believe our success continues to demonstrate the underlying strength of the business along with our unique combination of network, brand and customer offer.
Our No 1 and No 2 positions at 25 of Europe’s primary airports mean we have the best network in Europe and we have built on that, securing seven new No 1 positions during the year.
Our friendly service and low fares are driving customer engagement and our customer satisfaction rating is up despite the unprecedented levels of industry disruption!
So when I look back on the first year, the highlights were many and varied, principally and most notably that we successfully integrated the Air Berlin acquisition, taking us to No 1 in Germany’s biggest market – effectively establishing in a matter of weeks an airline the size that Monarch was while growing our brand strongly there.
We took delivery of our 300th aircraft and started flying more than 1,000 routes! I am also delighted that we have moved closer to our target of attracting 20% of new entrant pilots who are female by 2020 by achieving a new high of 15% this year.
We made some great strides into using data to help us operate more efficiently, from employing predictive maintenance to tools which helps us to manage any disruption more effectively.
And when I look forward to the next year and beyond – I feel that we are very well positioned for the future.
Our strong balance sheet makes us financially robust in a volatile environment and able to take advantage of opportunities that arise.
We have made significant progress on our strategic initiatives focused on loyalty, holidays and business travellers.
I have also the ambition that easyJet will become the most data-driven airline in the world. We are investing significantly in our use of data because I believe we can make better use of the billions of data points that we have to give customers a better experience, as well as reduce costs and improve punctuality and reliability.
Tackling disruption is one of my key priorities – it remains a major challenge for the whole industry so some may be surprised to hear that I see it as a major opportunity, but we are leading the industry response with a comprehensive, integrated programme to mitigate the impact on our customers.
Overall we believe we can outperform others whatever the market circumstances.
So I know what you’re thinking … no mention of Brexit! Let me say I believe we are as well prepared as we can be and remain confident that flying will continue.
And this month, as we welcome our 90 millionth passenger on board this year, we look forward to a 2019 of new milestones and opportunities.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Michael Preston, Weybridge/Cape Town
A thoroughly professional and well run airline which has served me well since 1996. EZY is always my preferred carrier within Europe even if not the least expensive.