“We’ll end up with something in the middle whereby we are able to fly into Europe. It might be slightly more expensive or there might be some minor restrictions, but we’re pretty confident we’ll get everything we need.” He also warns against using Brexit as

an excuse for a business performing badly, adding: “There’s always the temptation when you have problems in a business to look for other causes that might not be dead obvious.

The order for 34 new Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft gave a more concrete foundation on which to build future plans than its acquisition of midlife aircraft. Speaking in January at the Boeing factory in Seattle where he took delivery of the final aircraft in the order and the airline’s 100th aircraft overall, CEO Steve Heapy says that while some of the aircraft would replace older ones, others will be used to grow the airline’s network. He adds this is far easier to achieve with new aircraft than by using midlife aircraft between six and 10 years old that can be harder to find in an open market. Heapy says: “Our aspirations for growth were quite

considerable and, when you buy midlife aircraft, there’s not a guaranteed supply [of them]. You have to go in the market and see what’s around and, if it’s an aircraft you want, you then start negotiations. “What the new aircraft order gave us was surety of supply over a period of two years, and we’ve been supplementing the surety of supply with this new aircraft by buying some midlife aircraft as well.” Heapy adds while he may be in the market for

more aircraft in the future, having taken four years to go through the last aircraft acquisition process, from first consideration to final delivery, the airline is unlikely to have any major changes soon. He says: “It’s very early days for that – you have to start several years before you really want them.” And Heapy confirms both Boeing and Airbus would be up for consideration, adding: “Both have products that have some very good strengths, so we would have to look very closely to see which suited our needs better.”

Making the most of new and midlife aircraft

“The heatwave [in the UK in summer 2019] probably had a small impact, but it didn’t have a massive impact on us. The World Cup might have had a small impact, but it wasn’t massive; fears about the economy, fears about Brexit, I’m sure they all had some impact, but I don’t think any were massive on their own.” Heapy says from’s point of view if there were a block on flights into Europe, Turkey would probably be the main beneficiary thanks to the value for money it offers, while the airline has already boosted capacity there. But, as he hopes for the best, Heapy says’s main focus with its new aircraft is to continue developing its current operations – particularly out of Birmingham and London Stansted airports, where bases were opened in 2017. Since then, Birmingham has gone from being a home to four aircraft to 10, while Stansted has doubled the original six aircraft based there in the same period. He adds: “We will be mainly thickening

routes. Where we’ve got some routes going to a destination four, five, six times a week, our aspiration is to go on a daily basis, and we’re also still heavily investing in our bases at Birmingham and Stansted as well.”

Short-haul programme

While Heapy admits that one or two short- haul routes will be launched this summer, a final decision as to where they might be is yet to be made. He adds plenty of work goes into deciding a new route and that it can take time for the decision to be justified. He adds: “We put in a lot of research

before we launch routes. We speak to our customers through surveys, we look at market statistics and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) statistics showing who’s flying from which airport, and we look to see if there’s a gap because a destination isn’t served or a destination is underserved.

“Some of them work, some of them

don’t work, but when you launch a new route and destination, you have to give them a period of time and investment [to succeed]. Year one is never great in terms of profitability, but it’s an investment year and you have to build on it in years two and three. You need to take a long-term view.”

Heapy also rules out developing a long- says it would potentially consider adding Boeing and Airbus aircraft to its fleet in the future


haul programme beyond the 20 or so New York shopping packages offered in the run-up to Christmas from six UK airports. “Doing a small number per year of shopping trips is about right,” he adds. “A transatlantic operation is a big thing and we’ve still got a lot more to do in our current sphere of operation, which is the eastern and western Mediterranean primarily.” Now all he needs is an answer on Brexit and what the future holds, as does the rest of the UK. 

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