EasyJet CEO: Impact of Brexit ‘shouldn’t be overestimated’

Carolyn McCall [Eirik Solheim/Flickr]

Budget airline EasyJet’s chief-exec Carolyn McCall told EURACTIV’s partner WirtschaftsWoche why she’s looking forward to fuel price increases and shared her thoughts on Brexit.

Caroline McCall is the Chief Executive Officer of EasyJet.

McCall spoke to WirtschaftsWoche’s Rüdiger Kiani-Kreß.

The airline industry has always picked itself up rather quickly after tumultuous events like strikes and terror attacks. How are things after the events in Paris, Egypt and Brussels?

The last few months have been bad times for all airlines.

Do you have contingency plans?

Of course. But they aren’t of much help now. There has been a dropoff in bookings since the attacks and the constant strikes by air traffic controllers in France and Belgium, and security personnel in Germany. This is a new combination of factors and has made business unpredictable.

Is your company going to suffer long-term?

I don’t think so. We are going to overcome these problems and for 2016 we are predicting between 7 and 8% growth.

EU states urged to share more intelligence with airports

European Union aviation security experts agreed on Thursday (31 March) that police and intelligence agencies should share more information with transport authorities and operators to help prevent attacks like last week’s twin bombings at Brussels’ Zaventem airport.

And the industry itself? Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has predicted carnage.

I’d say carnage is an exaggeration. Low oil prices are actually protecting less competitive routes.

How so?

Cheap fuel helps the older legacy airlines, like Air France-KLM. Those companies can continue operating their routes with their older inefficient aircraft which they would have to shut down in the event of higher fuel prices.

Why are you not more aggressive and why do you not open up more routes then?

That’s how the old world of airlines operated, that’s not us. We aren’t after market-share, we want to grow and be profitable, give good service and provide attractive dividends.

Doesn’t every airline want that?

Most achieve one out of those three goals. But we want to succeed in all three when we open up new routes, which we want to be independent of oil price. Sure, if it is lower, we earn more, if it is higher, we earn a bit less. But in the end, almost all of our routes are profitable, regardless of how expensive kerosene is.

So you are happier when the price goes up?

I’d put it more like this: we are happy because higher oil prices means more business discipline is needed.

There are reports that you approached Air Berlin about a takeover.

We aren’t an airline that does takeovers. That would mean growing faster than we have planned. I currently see no reason to do this.

What are you doing differently to your competitors?

One of our main strengths is better IT and attention to Big Data in the planning of our work, from ticket sales to flight plans.

Commission to review competition from Gulf-based airlines

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said she will seek a new mandate from EU countries to reopen talks with Persian Gulf states over ‘unfair’ subsidies to airlines following a request from France and Germany last Friday (13 March).

Would Brexit interfere with the development of the company?

No. We are against Brexit. But we mustn’t overestimate the impact it would have. Naturally, the company has a plan if it came to it. We have been operating in Europe for a long time and we are licensed in other countries as well.


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