easyJet’s Chief Executive Carolyn McCall will speak about navigating the budget airline into the post-Brexit era when she appears at WTM London – the leading global event for the travel industry.
Dame Carolyn McCall took the controls at the Luton-based airline in summer 2010, and has steered it to European expansion and record levels of profitability.
But there is turbulence ahead, as the airline’s costs and revenues are under pressure – thanks to sterling’s fall after the EU referendum – and Brexit means she is seeking a second operating certificate outside the UK.
McCall will be interviewed by WTM aviation expert, John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting, on the first day of WTM London (Monday 6 November).
He said: “easyJet now carries 70 million passengers annually and is attracting more business travellers, while winning plaudits for being family-friendly.
“It is a very competitive airline in a tough environment – competing against the likes of Ryanair and Wizz Air – but easyJet flies from numerous primary airports and is the biggest airline at Gatwick Airport.”
When McCall moved to the no-frills airline from her role as CEO at Guardian Media Group, her lack of aviation experience prompted Michael O’Leary, boss of rival Ryanair, to call her a “media luvvie”.
Her early years at the airline also saw easyJet founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou disagree with her plans to expand the fleet and criticise her pay packet.
“She has managed her relationship with Stelios diplomatically, and she has won much praise for her track record over the past six years,” said Strickland.
“It will be fascinating to hear her at WTM London, as she will talk about how she has improved the airline’s customer service and online experience while boosting its bottom line.
“We will also discuss her future strategy, which includes the arrival of 30 larger Airbus A321neos – the first arriving in summer 2018 – to help it grow in slot-constrained airports.
“There might be more clarity about Brexit negotiations when we have our interview, so I will ask about plans for expansion in markets outside the UK, such as Italy, Spain or France.
“easyJet is a founder member of the Airlines4Europe lobbying group, so she will have plenty to say about industry issues such as taxation, air traffic control strikes, airport charges and technology.
“Meanwhile, the ever-present threat of terrorism is having a big impact on the airline’s strategy, affecting holiday destinations such as Turkey and Egypt, as well as source markets in countries such as the UK and France.”
World Travel Market London, Senior Director, Simon Press said: “I am delighted Carolyn McCall is speaking on the first day of WTM London. She is, quite rightly, regarded as one of the country’s top business leaders.
“Running an airline is an unpredictable enterprise – who knows whether the laptop ban could affect airlines within Europe, or if the IT systems will crash, or when another Icelandic volcano might erupt.
“It promises to be a very enlightening session with a compelling captain of industry.”
The session takes place on Monday 6 November at The Inspire Theatre from 3.30pm.