Lucy Huxley and Ben Ireland

Jet2holidays’ “aggressive expansion” is reminiscent of Airtours in the 1990s and presents challenges to established firms, according to a former Thomson Holidays boss.

Neilson chairman Richard Bowden-Doyle urged rivals not to dismiss “the new kid on the block” as – the airline behind the operator – celebrated its 15th birthday on Monday.

He said: “Jet2holidays is presenting similar challenges to the established players like Airtours did.

“A lot of the smaller destination specialists are also coming under pressure. Jet2holidays is hoovering up a lot of beds, paying for year-round allocations and commitments.

“It was the pressure on product by Airtours that led to the formation of Thomson’s differentiated product strategy years ago.

“It’s very easy to be dismissive of a company [like Jet2holidays], perceiving it to be operating at the lower end and ignore it. There’s a danger of self-confident dismissal of the new kid on the block, and the next thing you know, they’ve stolen half your business.”

Jet2holidays overtook Thomas Cook as the UK’s second-largest Atol-holder as it turned 10 last year.

Bowden-Doyle added: “Jet2holidays seems to have an aggressive pattern of expansion, which it can do coming from nowhere, rather than defending an established position. It looks like a player that believes volume is key and is genuinely creating a real dilemma for others.”

The airline celebrated its anniversary at Leeds Bradford airport where popstar Peter Andre surprised customers at check-in and sang Happy Birthday on an aircraft.

In February 2003, flew two aircraft to nine destinations; now it operates a fleet of 88 aircraft carrying passengers to 65 destinations.

Steve Lee, commercial director since day one, said service and the airline’s down-to-earth ethos were the key to its success. “Fifteen years has flown by,” he said. celebrates 15th anniversary

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