Posted on: 17 July 2017
easyJet’s CEO, Dame Carolyn McCall, is to leave the airline at the end of the year to take a position as CEO of UK media broadcaster ITV.
The low-fare carrier is already underway with its search for a replacement after confirming McCall will be leaving after seven successful years as the head of the airline. EasyJet chairman, John Barton, said in a Sky News report that McCall had “transformed” the business during her tenure: “She put easyJet’s passengers and people at the heart of the business. Having first built a solid operational performance, she redefined the customer experience not just at easyJet but across short-haul Europe and has seen both the number and loyalty of easyJet’s passengers grow as a result,” he said.
The next two years will be a crucial time for whoever the incoming CEO is, with Luton-based easyJet underway with a move to create a new Austrian-based operation as part of its preparations for the UK’s eventual departure from the European Union.
McCall is reported to have described the airline as “a structural winner in a brilliant position” and added that she looked forward “to being a loyal customer in the years to come”.
The airline late last week confirmed it is establishing easyJet Europe in Vienna, Austria and had applied to regulator Austro Control for an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and to Austria’s Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology for an operating licence. It hopes to receive the AOC and licence in the near future, it said, saying the process is well advanced.
This would allow easyJet to establish the new airline, easyJet Europe, headquartered in Vienna and which would crucially enable it to continue to operate flights both across Europe and domestically within European countries after the UK has left the EU, regardless of the outcome of talks on any future UK–EU aviation agreement.
At present easyJet has a UK operating licence and AOC which means, as the UK is currently an EU member, it is an EU airline. It also has a Swiss operating licence and AOC.
The new structure would mean easyJet becoming a pan-European group with three airlines based in Austria, Switzerland and the UK. All would be owned by easyJet plc, which itself will be EU-owned and controlled, listed on the London Stock Exchange and based in the UK.
It added it would continue to push for the UK and EU to reach an aviation agreement which, at a minimum, will enable flights between the UK and EU. The airline currently bases around 100 aircraft and employs around 4,000 people across six EU27 countries, who will form the basis of easyJet Europe. Around 25 aircraft and around 950 people are based in Switzerland and around 140 aircraft and 6,000 people are based in the UK.
Some new jobs would be created in Austria, says easyJet, but no jobs will move from the UK to Austria. All its UK employees will continue to be based in Luton and its 11 UK bases. Around half of the airline’s passengers come from the EU27 and around 30% of them fly on routes between and within the EU27.
Once the AOC is granted, next steps would be the re-registering of the first aircraft from its UK AOC to the new AOC as part of the granting of the latter. From then on easyJet would phase the re-registering of the approximately 110 aircraft that are required for its EU operations into it in a structured way over the next two years to ensure that there is no disruption to operations.
This will be completed in advance of the UK leaving the EU. easyJet stressed it was important to note that the aircraft would not physically be moving in the sense of where they are based or operated from and to. Its network would remain unaffected by the setting up of the new AOC, it added, saying also that it had had “constructive discussions” with the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the UK government about the future regulatory framework for UK aviation post-Brexit and is confident it can manage any scenario.
On Brexit specifically, it said it continues to push for the EU and UK to reach an aviation agreement which at a minimum will enable flights between them. “We have had positive discussions with the UK and European governments and the EU on this, and it is a position which is supported by other major European airlines,” it said.