Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy says he is hopeful that Covid-19 data “will stabilise” and allow the reopening of routes to the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands before the end of summer.
Heapy said: “I completely understand that the government is following epidemic advice, but I am hopeful that the data will stabilise in respect of the islands. What was concerning the government was the rapid increase in the R rate, but it was big percentages on small numbers. If it stops or slows, there may be some change in the advice.”
Heapy said the government’s decision to reimpose quarantine on Spain and the FCO’s subsequent decision to add the Canaries and Balearics to its advice against non-essential travel to the mainland had been extremely disruptive. However, he said the operator had “got its head down” and dealt with the situation, including switching capacity to the eastern Mediterranean.
“We were dealt a hand of cards and you just have to play it,” he said. “Customers don’t want to hear you moaning; they just want a holiday, so at some stage, you just have to get your head down and cope.”
Heapy said: “Demand dropped immediately to Spain but a significant number switched from Spain to the Eastern Med.”
But he added: “People don’t like constant change of advice in a short period. For some people they are on their third booking of the year already, and they just get sick of it. It breeds so much uncertainty, there’s a real danger they will just say ‘Sod it. We won’t go at all this year. We’ll go away next year now.”
Heapy also criticised the government for its lack of understanding of the impact its decisions have on travel companies.
“I know the government is putting health first, but there is just not enough comprehension of how the changes they make with a sweep of a pen in the Cabinet Office will create a tsunami of admin for us to deal with,” he said.
Heapy said he had heard the first news about quarantine being reinstated for anyone travelling to the UK from Spain at 6.50pm on Saturday, July 25, with measures being introduced from midnight, and had similar late notice of the FCO’s decision to extend its advice to the islands.
“We then have to notify several hundred thousand customers, notify hotels, put flights in place to bring people home and deal with thousands of queries from customers who haven’t yet travelled. It’s a massive undertaking,” he said.
Heapy added his staff often faced abuse from frustrated customers, which was made worse by getting the information through so late, or not being able to answer questions from customers because they genuinely don’t know the answers.
“Our staff have been dealing with disruptions to our programme since February when we had the sandstorms in the Canaries. It’s been extremely hard for them,” he said.
Webcast: Jet2’s Steve Heapy
Filmed prior to the government’s Spain decision
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