What next for Jet2holidays?

In recent blogs, I have looked at the strategic options of some of the UK’s largest travel companies, and it would be remiss not to comment on Jet2holidays, the UK’s most successful tour operator, over the last ten years.

I was involved in the set-up of Jet2holidays in 2007, having pitched Philip Meeson, the CEO and owner of Jet2.com, the opportunity to leverage its strong northern branding to step into the gap left when Thomas Cooks dismantled the  MyTravel / Airtours operation in the North of England, as part of the supposed “Merger” between the two business.

On Holiday Group business initially provided the booking platform and hotel purchasing for Jet2holidays, but Meeson quickly realised the strategic importance of the tour operation and quickly recruited an experienced management team headed by Steve Heapy and other ex-Airtours staff.

As they say, the rest is history, with Jet2holidays creating a market-leading short-haul tour operation, carrying 6.7m passengers.

However, the success of their unwavering focus on the UK market may now be a strategic weakness.

How much bigger can they become in a market where Easyjet Holidays and Tui also seek to expand rapidly?

Here are a few of the moves that could come next:

New London Gatwick base.

Jet2 operates out of all the major UK departure airports, except Gatwick, having chosen initially to access the lucrative London market via a large base at Stanstead.

Easyjet dominates Gatwick departures with over 50% of outbound flights, and even Ryanair failed to make a dent, so Jet2 would face heavy competition entering this marketplace as an airline. However, EasyJet Holidays is less established, potentially leaving the door open for a Summer 2025 entry for Jet2holidays.  

I know slots are tight at Gatwick, but any airport commercial department with one airline with a 50% share will want to encourage its major competitor to arrive to balance the economic power. A heavy branding investment would be required to convince southern customers brought up on EasyJet flights to switch, but Jet2 ‘s low-cost and high-quality holiday packages should be attractive enough to allow them to gain a foothold.

More Exclusive Hotel Stock.

The strength of Jet2’s balance sheet means that, unlike Tui, they can strike multi-year exclusive guarantee deals with beach hotels in prime locations to create a branded and high-margin “differentiated” product. However, after the collapse of Thomas Cook and the dismantling of Tui’s relationships, many hotel groups now prefer multiple suppliers rather than having all their eggs in one basket, making the development of differentiated products harder.

Long-haul Expansion.

Jet2holidays grew out of the ethos of a short-haul low-cost carrier, and neither Jet2’s current 737 Aircraft nor A321 Neo replacements  (25% more capacity per plane) can operate long-haul routes. However, many third-party airlines with long-haul aircraft would love to cooperate with Jet2holiday to access their established online and retail trade distribution networks.

A strategic partnership or the direct leasing of long-haul aircraft would facilitate introducing a long-haul tour operating program to Jet2holidays’ existing 6m customer base.  A definite no-brainer, in my opinion.

Cruise Division.

MyTravel and Tui developed profitable cruise divisions by repurposing older, smaller cruise ships as the major cruise lines replaced them with new mega-ships.  A strategic alliance with one of the major cruise lines to use their existing capacity would be lower risk and make more sense, so watch up for a tie-up with MSC or Royal Caribbean for more mass-market products.

UK acquisitions.

Given Jet2’s healthy £390m 2023 profit and £1 billion of cash in the bank, they could afford most UK travel businesses, but is there much worth buying?  Strategically, it makes little sense to acquire a UK OTA that would compete with its online holiday sales, and owning high street shops would find little favour with the city. However, purchasing a strategic stake in one of the retail consortia to take greater control of third-party shop distribution to slow the trade growth of EasyJet holidays could be effective and relatively cheap.

International Expansion.

After Brexit, obtaining European AOCs is more complicated; however, it should be easy for an established airline like Jet2.

Extending its operations from Northern Ireland into the South seems logical, with Ryanair lacking a tour operation to compete with them.

Expansion into larger European source markets, like Germany, will likely be on the back of acquiring existing tour operations with an established customer base and distribution, as it’s much easier to swap out flight providers than to establish the Jet2holidays brand in new markets.

Jet2 as an acquisition target.

As a publicly quoted, cash-rich business, Jet2 can acquire but also represents an attractive proposition for a business wishing to enter the European tour operating market.

However, the American super brands of Expedia, Booking.com and Tripadvisor have shown little interest in the package holiday market, and with the slowdown in the Chinese market, the likes of trip.com appear much less likely to splash the cash in Europe, particularly on a business that is so UK-centric.


My overall conclusion is that Jet2 Holidays will spend the next few years defending its position as the UK’s largest holiday business by continuing to focus on a quality lead business with a high level of repeat customers rather than radically re-inventing its model. As its fleet replacement scheme rolls through, it will naturally increase capacity on each route as the A321 Neo has 25% more seats than the A737 800s they are replacing, so more of the same seems likely.

 There is nothing wrong with more of the same if you are making £390m profit a year!

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