Airline. A famed TV series documenting customer service conundrums, demanding passengers and the day-to-day operations of an early up-and-coming airline, easyJet. A series that certainly sparked my interest in aviation as a child and helped to make the carrier a household name across Britain. But how far have they come since the start of the show in 1999?
Late nineties easyJet was a very different company – polo shirt uniforms, phone numbers emblazoned on aircraft liveries and a stripped back, unbundled air travel service. Airline effectively followed easyJet as they helped to evolve the airline industry from one of extortionately high prices and low competition to a hugely competitive low-cost market in which no-frills carriers dominate the scene and force the traditional carriers of yesteryear to adapt to survive.
Throughout the show, the airline was based predominantly at Luton, Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and Belfast – with Luton being their largest base. The Bedfordshire airport remains a hugely important base for the carrier and having recently undergone an important overhaul (with more developments under way as we speak) Luton is likely to remain at the forefront of easyJet’s future. Despite this, London Gatwick is now their largest base serving 118 destinations (at least pre-Covid). Gatwick is the second busiest UK airport after Heathrow, and easyJet are the most dominant airline there. The carrier has grown to have 29 bases across Europe, and although through the current pandemic they’ve been forced to close some key bases, they remain a far improved airline from that of the late nineties / early noughties.
Fleet and Staff
Starting out from Luton with two Boeing 737-200 aircraft, the show depicted their transformation into an all-airbus airline. They now have one of the largest fleets in Europe, with 320 aircraft including A319-100s, A320-200s, A320neos and A321neos. The nature of their fleet has allowed the to keep maintenance and training costs low and effectively has enabled them to scale the airline without adding disproportionate complexity. To maintain, fly and operate this huge fleet the airline has a workforce of 15,000 staff. Sadly, much like most current airlines, they’re having to undergo redundancy processes and may be forced to make up to 4,500 staff redundant. Sad news for the carrier, but sadly a necessary reality given the current market climate.
Passenger Figures and Financial Performance
This is where we can really see just how far easyJet have come since their early days on the small screen. During the first year of the show, September 1999-September 2000, they handled 5.6 million passengers with a turnover of 263.7 million GBP. September 2018-September 2019 overshadows those figures at an eyewatering level. 96 million passengers carried and a turnover of 6.3 billion GBP. That’s a growth of over 1000% in passenger numbers and 2355% in revenue. Quite astounding figures, which will quite clearly and unfortunately be hampered by the virus.
Marketing and Distribution
The early message and campaign of easyJet was to make flying as affordable as a pair of jeans. They certainly achieved that and more. The initial days saw a focus on telephone sales direct to the consumer. Cutting out travel agent fees and commissions gave the carrier a significant cost advantage over rival carriers. During the first few seasons of Airline however, the internet and online sales skyrocketed. By 2004 98% of all bookings came from the company website. The airline’s current marketing techniques follow a similar rhetoric. Price focused and heavily reliant on online sales. The internet revolution for airlines has clearly taken over and easyJet were a major figurehead in bringing it to the forefront. The airline is a far more modern, professional and corporate company now, but they still maintain their key principles of simplicity, cheap fares and low costs.
To conclude, it is quite clear that the easyJet we see today is a far different beast to the one we saw in the Airline tv series. The show helped to make the airline a household name in the UK, but they’re now a household name across Europe. Their business model has quite clearly been a major undisputed success. Alongside Ryanair they’ve drastically changed and developed the air travel and tourism industry forever. They caught on to the shifting customer desires, caught the attention of the masses and now have caught a huge chunk of industry market share. Whilst the pandemic is certain to damage easyJet, and they are currently having financial difficulties, undergoing redundancy processes and being forced to sign sale-and-leaseback agreements to improve liquidity, I have absolutely no doubts that the orange carrier we all know and love will remain a dominant force in European aviation for the long term.
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“EasyJet Boeing 737-700; G-EZJI@GVA;30.12.2006/445gf” by Aero Icarus. View here. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. View license. Image cropped.
“Luton Airport The check-in building.” by Thomas Nugent. View here. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. View license.