EasyJet Holidays is bringing forward its launch to the trade in the wake of the collapse of Thomas Cook, the operator has revealed.

Although the carrier’s operator division has always said it was keen to work with third parties, it had never previously confirmed when it would open to agency sales.

However, pressed to give a date at a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast to launch the annual Insight Report last month, chief operating officer Paul Ablin confirmed easyJet was “hoping [the trade launch] to be February or March time”.

He said: “It was not originally planned to be quite so soon, but with Thomas Cook failing we have tried to bring it forward.”

Ablin said Thomas Cook’s “unexpected” failure had prompted easyJet Holidays to reconsider its capacity planning and add more hotels to its programme. In particular, more beds were contracted in Turkey.

Speaking last month after easyJet Holidays relaunched to the public, Ablin said: “We have only been going for two weeks, but we are looking to be a big player in the market.

“We have properly invested in easyJet Holidays this time, although we have done well in the past working as a white label.”

EasyJet Holidays increased staff numbers by 30 to 40 people in light of the Thomas Cook failure due to expectation of additional demand.

Ablin said easyJet expected distribution of holidays to be similar to the airline, at 80% direct and 20% indirect. It recently increased its Atol to one million passengers a year, suggesting it expects about 200,000 holidays to be sold by third parties.

Sheelagh Mahoney, head of leisure distribution, said easyJet Holidays was the carrier’s big opportunity for 2020. “It presents its own challenges because we already work with the trade as an airline, but it’s a new proposition with new energy.”

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