It’s been an amazing 5 years since we last had easyJet in the interview hot seat at WTM! Then Carolyn McCall had not long arrived as the airline’s new CEO and now it’s the turn of her successor, Johan Lundgren. He brings substantial industry experience following a long career at TUI and I’m looking forward to asking him about his first impressions since he’s arrived at easyJet. It’s one of Europe’s leading Low Cost Carries, flying over 90 million passengers a year on its fleet of over 300 aircraft. The airline is successful, popular with customers and highly profitable, but Lundgren joins at a time when the European airline industry is facing multiple challenges. Fuel prices are rising but fares aren’t keeping up. Several airlines have failed outright, with Primera and Cobalt being recent casualties. There’s been a huge escalation in the number of delayed flights in Europe this year, especially due to strikes by French air traffic controllers. easyJet, many of whose flights are to, within, or overfly France, is one of those that has been particularly badly affected. As a consequence, they and other airlines are facing increased compensation payments to customers under EU consumer protection legislation known as “EU261”. For events such as these strikes, airlines are incurring significant financial penalties for factors which are clearly outside of their control. On top of this, Brexit looms ever closer, with no clarity on what this may mean for air services between the UK and other European countries come next March. Quite a plateful for Lundgren to get his teeth into. However, as well as finding out how easyJet is tackling these issues I’ll also be asking about what flight path he is planning for easyJet with respect to a host of other factors including its customer proposition, fleet and network and the growing importance of digital technology to the business. I’m sure we’ll also touch on the important question of easyJet’s campaign to get more female pilots into its workforce. There’s certainly plenty to talk about so don’t miss this slot!
Also new to his role and our third interview guest for this year’s aviation programme, is the CEO of Gulfair, Kresimir Kucko, who previously had a 25 year career at Croatia Airlines. It’s an interesting time to take a look at Gulfair as the airline embarks on a new phase of growth combined with fleet and product renewal. Gulfair used to be the leading airline in the Gulf region but somewhat lost its way following the emergence of the “Big Three” carriers in the shape of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Now it’s in the process of experiencing something of a renaissance and establishing a new sense of purpose. I’m eager to explore with Kucko Kresimir what this means for the future direction of the airline as he puts in place a new strategy including the opening of new destinations, the introduction of state of the art aircraft to its fleet and significant upgrades to its products. Will this succeed and what opportunities and challenges lie ahead? Come and find out for yourself in this interview! Along with our third airline CEO, Yvonne Makolo of RwandAir, who I talked about in my last blog, we’ve got a rich airline harvest at this year’s WTM and I hope you’ll join me as we gather in the crop!