EasyJet’s McCall ‘calm’ about impact of Brexit

EasyJet’s McCall ‘calm’ about impact of Brexit

EasyJet boss Dame Carolyn McCall says she is “calm” about Brexit and positive that the UK’s departure from the EU will not prevent people flying to Europe.

Speaking at the latest Travel Weekly Business Breakfast hosted by Google yesterday, McCall said to expect plenty of headlines about talks breaking down over the next 18 months.

But she said: “If by 2018 we have not got an agreement, do you think people are not going to allow British airlines to fly to Europe?

“We need to get an agreement, we probably need a transitional agreement, but that’s what they are deciding today.”

McCall said part of her job is to make sure aviation is a top priority for the UK government and the other 27 EU member states as they negotiate Brexit.

However she told delegates that easyJet could not wait for an agreement to be reached and that plans to establish an operating base in Europe are on track.

She will not reveal where the budget carrier has chosen for its European operating licence until it is finalised, but said the move puts it on a par with every other airline in Europe.

“I feel very calm about it [Brexit],” she said. “We decided we had to control our own destiny as far as we possibly could in an industry were shocks are very frequent and much more common than other industries.

“We are the only airline at any scale denominated in pounds sterling. What can we control? We can hedge, so we have been hedged.

“And over the years we have made sure we have very strong contacts with governments and regulators right across Europe. We believe in working with them to get what we need and what we want.

“The reason I am able to be calm is we have planned for if we did not stay in Europe. It’s a no brainer if you are in the aviation market to be in Europe because freedom to fly has been the most liberating thing.

“That liberated market has ensured passengers have hugely benefitted in terms of what they can do and fares.

“Once it went the other way we had to focus on the future and not moan about what it could have been.

“We started to implement a contingency plan, which in summary is we will have a European AOC (Air Operator Certificate) and a UK AOC. We already have a Swiss AOC.”

McCall said it takes time to register 100 aircraft is flies on routes within Europe and so it could not wait for the politicians to thrash out a deal.

However, she said “if we can get an aviation agreement that looks like what we have today, that’s fantastic”.

McCall said the referendum last year saw an immediate 20% devaluation in sterling and an £80 million hit for the airline.

But she said a 35% drop in the value of easyJet’s shares has since recovered back to where it was and the carrier remains in a strong position in a period of low oil prices.

“Airlines that are under pressure are those that do not have good balance sheets,” she said.

“We do not feel that pressure because the fact is we are here forever and we have a long game to play and will continue to make the right decisions.

“We are in expansion mode and next year we will grow by 6% to 9%. There are more opportunities out there regardless of what’s going on because the fundamentals of the airline market have not changed.

“Legacy airlines still have a huge amount to do. They still do not have a low cost operating model, they are not agile. They have years of catching up to do.”

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