EasyJet Seeks Longer Greek Holiday Season to Offset Tunisia Exitby
U.K. carrier wants vacation market to span March-November
Aircraft deployment plans in flux after North Africa attacks
EasyJet Plc is in talks with Greek tourist chiefs aimed at extending the country’s holiday season as this year’s terror attacks in Tunisia prompt people to turn away from vacations in North Africa.
EasyJet wants restaurants and hotels that currently open from May to September to take customers from March until November, U.K. regional director Sophie Dekkers said in an interview. It’s initially seeking extensions through October, starting in 2016.
European tourists are favoring north Mediterranean resorts after an Islamist gunman killed 38 people in Tunisia in June. While Greece may be ripe for a timetable expansion, it lacks the second-home owners who sustain year-round routes to Portugal and Spain, making better tourist infrastructure vital.
“We can’t fly people there if there aren’t hotels or restaurants open, but they’re not going to open unless we’re bringing people in, so it’s kind of chicken and egg,” Dekkers said at EasyJet’s base in Luton, England.
EastJet scrapped flights to Monastir, its only Tunisian destination, after the shootings in the resort town Sousse, which came months after an attack on the Bardo National Museum killed more than 20. Travel to other countries in the region is recovering only slowly.
“There’s a lot more unrest in places like Egypt and North Africa than we’ve seen,” Dekkers said. “Where we probably would be piling on a lot more capacity, at the moment we’re being a bit more cautious because the consumer is being more cautious.”
EasyJet’s discussions with the Greek tourist board are also aimed at avoiding a repeat of bed shortages in the Canary Islands in 2014 after airlines shifted capacity there following the first attacks on tourists in Egypt for eight years.
The airline said last week it will hire 1,140 cabin crew and pilots over the next 12 months as 14 more Airbus Group SE A320 jetliners join the fleet, fitted with a layout that adds six more seats for a total of 186.
Expansion plans are generally focused on “topping up” with additional frequencies and adding flights between existing destinations, rather than opening up entirely new routes, Dekkers said.
The carrier, which limits flights to six hours to avoid overnight stopovers, has earmarked Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Iceland for growth.