Roadmap to Recovery The Interview

Steve Heapy, Jet2holidays and

In an interview for a Travel Weekly Roadmap to Recovery

webcast filmed before changes to government advice at the weekend, the chief executive of the UK’s second-biggest operator spoke to Lucy Huxley on a wide range of topics

Heapy on . . . maintaining service levels through the crisis “We were very careful not to furlough lots of customer-facing staff who would be dealing with cancellations, amendments and queries. We had a fully-staffed call centre from the start because our call centre is homeworking, so we didn’t have them all stuck in a building. They were working from home and able to provide our usual service. We also drafted in 130 staff from other areas – trainee pilots, HR, product – all areas of the business. While the queries may not have been resolved at the time, we had people taking messages getting back to our travel agent partners and customers.”

Heapy on . . . refund credit notes “We spoke to the CAA and the government. We spoke to our legal people to see whether they thought that these were something that we could do. The reason we did it was

8 30 JULY 2020

not necessarily to retain the cash in the business, because we pretty much internally separate customers’ cash from our own. We did it to retain the bookings, because if you give customers a reason to cancel the holiday, there’s a very good chance they will do. [Head of sales] Alan Cross was convinced that they [RCNs] were right. It’s been a lifeline to many travel agents.”

Heapy on . . . the industry’s reputation “The reputation of the travel industry has been damaged in some areas by the actions of some companies that have just not prioritised customer service at all. Customers and travel agents have been left hanging on, waiting for people to get back to them, working with no information. If a tour operator gives a poor service to the travel agent, it’s the poor travel agent that’s got to deal with the irate customer. But I think it will give us

a competitive edge because we’re already receiving bookings from customers that are brand new to us.”

Heapy on . . . outlook for 2021 “I think 2021 has got to be a year of caution. It’s got to be a year of companies strengthening their balance sheets and strengthening their resilience. We’ve got to be very cautious about the decisions we make because in two weeks’ time, we could be in lockdown again; there could be a second spike in winter; there could be countries that are off limits

next year; or there could be social distancing put in place on aircraft which will effectively drop our load factor to 50 or 60%.”

Heapy on . . . downsizing “We’ll be operating fewer aircraft in summer 2021 than we’d anticipated for summer 2020. We’ll have close to 20 fewer aircraft, so there is a requirement unfortunately, for less people to operate that programme. We’re just tightening it up a bit. There will still be millions of seats. But it’s a sensible contraction. We’ll

I think 2021 has got to be a year of caution. It’s got to be a year of companies strengthening their balance sheets. We’ve got to be very cautious about the decisions we make

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