Jet2 criticises ‘inexcusable’ performance by airports and suppliers

Jet2 has launched a scathing attack on UK airports for being “woefully ill-prepared” for the post-pandemic recovery.

The travel group has said its own financial performance “very much depends on how quickly the broader aviation sector returns to some level of stability”, as well as the strength of bookings for the rest of the summer and the second half of the financial year.

Jet2 still has “limited visibility” for its upcoming autumn/winter season.

The group’s executive chairman Philip Meeson launched a blistering criticism of the UK airports it uses – which include Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Birmingham and East Midlands – and the service providers it relies on.

He described it as “inexcusable, bearing in mind our flights have been on sale for many months and our load factors are quite normal.”

Meeson blamed a “lack of planning, preparedness and unwillingness to invest” by airports and its suppliers for the bumpy return to dealing with larger numbers of passengers.

Meeson added: “Broadly, most of our 10 UK Base Airports have been woefully ill-prepared and poorly resourced for the volume of customers they could reasonably expect, as have other suppliers, such as onboard caterers and providers of airport PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility) services.

“Theirs and the ground handling suppliers’ often atrocious customer service, long queues for security search, lack of staff and congestion in baggage handling areas, and the consequent airport congestion, together with the frequent lack of onboard catering supplies, have each contributed to a very much poorer experience at the start and finish of our customers’ holidays than they were entitled to expect.”

Jet2 has also revealed its operating loss for the year to March, of £324m, was only slightly lower than the previous year.

However it is confident that it has “the right product for these tougher times”.

While inflation will mean “prices are likely to come under some pressure”, it believes its offer of an “end-to-end package holiday is a higher yielding, resilient and popular product in difficult economic times”.

Jet2’s share price was down 8% in early trading and has now lost 40% of its value since late April, back to the levels seen in autumn 2020.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould believes it is “possible to have some sympathy” for Jet2’s predicament.

He said: “Unlike some of its peers, which have been masters of their own misfortune in many ways, Jet2 has taken a responsible approach. Last summer it cancelled and suspended flights to avoid customer uncertainty.

“Jet2 would have hoped by being transparent with holidaymakers it would have bolstered its reputation and could have reaped the benefits in 2022.

“But, as the latest results reveal, it is being damaged by the wider disarray afflicting the sector and, worryingly, has very limited visibility on how the current year will turn out.”