Recap and recording of our Return of Travel webinar with EasyJet’s CEO
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The last few months have seen major steps toward Europe reopening to tourists, and several TPG staffers have navigated new restrictions to visit spots like Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Despite ongoing concerns with the delta variant, other European countries continue to relax entry requirements — particularly for vaccinated visitors.
And on 26 August 2021, we had a chance to hear directly from the head of one major travel provider on the continent.
TPG’s founder and CEO, Brian Kelly, sat down with Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet — one of the largest low-cost carriers in Europe — on our most recent Return of Travel webinar. The duo covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from EasyJet’s approach to route planning to travel restrictions in Europe to the carrier’s approach to loyalty.
Here are some of the highlights from the session.
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Will EasyJet ever fly to the US?
EasyJet’s current route network features predominantly European destinations, though it does offer flights to select cities in Africa and the Middle East. And while it’s not a part of any major airline alliance, it does have a programme (Worldwide by EasyJet) that allows you to book a combination of EasyJet flights with select partner flights.
Nevertheless, Brian asked Johan whether the carrier would ever fly to the U.S. — and the answer was simple.
Johan went on to add that this was one of the major questions he wanted to tackle when he first became CEO four years ago, but he pointed out that EasyJet currently has just 10% of the market share in Europe — and he sees ways to continue to grow that.
“If you got something that is really, really working for you,” he said, “Then you continue to do that — and you do that better.”
He joked that Brian could ask him that question again when EasyJet’s share of the airline market in Europe reaches 30%, but for any Americans hoping to see an EasyJet flight as a fast follow to JetBlue’s entrance to Europe, that’s not on the horizon.
Does EasyJet plan to add premium classes?
Low-cost carriers around the world are generally known for single-class service on board their planes, but Brian asked Johan about the possibility of adding a premium cabin to EasyJet’s fleet in the future.
And once again, the answer was a definitive no, and he cited a couple of factors to support this conclusion:
- Sustainability: “An operation with high load factors and density (in terms of the people on board) is better from a sustainability perspective when you’re looking at carbon emissions per passenger and kilometre as well,” he said.
- Value: “We are rated consistently across our market as the number one airline when it comes to value … and that’s something we want to retain.”
You can still splurge for the extra-legroom seats, but don’t expect to see any kind of first-class cabin on EasyJet any time soon.
How is EasyJet addressing sustainability?
In addition to the high load factors and density cited above, Johan discussed other efforts that EasyJet is taking from an environmental standpoint — though he had some direct words for those advocating against flying.
“I completely disagree with the narrative that people should be flying less,” he said. Instead, “We need to make sure that the industry has less of an impact on the environment, that there is a plan for transitions into a decarbonized industry — and that’s what [EasyJet] has been working on.”
He flagged three important areas here.
For starters, reducing emissions per passenger kilometre — which is down “over a third” since 2000, according to Johan. This isn’t just about the flights but looking at every aspect of the airline’s operation to reduce its fuel consumption.
Second, Johan mentioned that EasyJet offsets the carbon emitted from every, single flight it operates. Brian pressed for additional details, and he pointed out that this isn’t individual passengers paying a few bucks. Instead, EasyJet voluntarily invests in projects (currently at 17 different ones, according to Johan) that offset the emissions across its network.
70% of these projects relate to deforestation, while the remainder are connected to renewable energy — all of which are certified to the highest levels of sustainability.
However, he views these as short-term goals — especially in comparison to the third (and final) aspect of the airline’s environmental initiatives: zero-emissions technology.
“As awful as this time has been with the pandemic,” he said, “There’s still a huge number of projects that are looking into this type of technologies … there are over 200 well-funded projects looking at electric aircraft at size.”
He also pointed out that this needs to be a coordinated, concerted and well-funded effort with all stakeholders — including governments, plane manufacturers, airlines and airports.
You can read more about EasyJet’s sustainability efforts at this page.
Want to hear more of Brian and Johan’s conversation? Check out the full recording right here — and view the run of show below to jump right to specific sections.
Run of show
- 2:00 — Brian’s introduction
- 9:17 — Booking flexibility
- 13:12 — EasyJet’s network strategy
- 19:47 — Future alliances and partnerships
- 22:58 — Demand and travel restrictions
- 29:58 — Sustainability
- 38:11 — Business travel
- 42:09 — Loyalty
- 44:56 — Q&A
“The Return of Travel with Brian Kelly” is a series of live events to help consumers prepare for the comeback of travel as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Join Brian as he interviews top experts and company executives on a range of topics, including the anticipated boom in leisure travel, what travel looks like for various groups, the return to cruising, destination reopening and much more.
For recaps of this series’ predecessor — “The Future of Travel with Brian Kelly” — please visit this page.
Featured photo by Clemens Bilan – Pool/Getty Images
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