by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, May 23, 2018
It has been quite a year for Jet2. The airline celebrated its 15th birthday in February, it was named Britain's best airline at the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards in April, and now it has been handed Which? Magazine's "Travel Brand of the Year" award.
After a "disastrous, turbulent year" for the airline industry, Jet2 was singled out for proving "it’s possible to provide cheap tickets and good customer service", Which? said. Runners up were HF Holiday, Premier Inn and Riviera Travel.
Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about the UK’s fourth largest airline.
1. It exists to serve the north
Its first slogan, "The Airline of the North", was dropped in 2008 when it opened its first base south of Manchester, but Jet2 is still firmly focused on the upper half of England. It was founded after its owners, the Dart Group, spotted a gap in the market - there was quite simply a paucity of budget flights leaving from the north. With no low-cost airlines using Manchester, EasyJet confined to Liverpool and just British Midland (now BMI) flying out of Leeds Bradford, Jet2 began flogging cheap seats to a captive market.
2. Its first flight was to Amsterdam
On February 12, 2003, Jet2 sent its first aircraft, a Boeing 737, from Leeds Bradford to Amsterdam. It initially flew to the Dutch city twice daily.
3. It was a pretty lean operation back then
With a single destination and just two aircraft, the airline was certainly embryonic. But later in 2003, Jet2 (whose official name is Jet2.com, created in age when the suffix was almost revolutionary) added scheduled flights to seven more European sun and city break destinations.
4. Jet2 began life as a cargo service
Before Jet2 was Jet2 it was Channel Express, running cargo, and post on behalf of the Royal Mail, to the Channel Islands and Europe from its base in Bournemouth. Channel Express was merged completely with Jet2 by 2006.
5. It doesn't have many empty seats
According to research by Telegraph Travel into passenger load factors (PLF), Jet2 is behind only Ryanair when it comes to flying with the fewest empty seats. Analysing data between April and September last year, Ryanair's planes were 96 per cent full, on average, while Jet2 recorded a figure of 93.2 per cent. For comparison, EasyJet's PLF was 92.1 per cent, and BA's 81.2 per cent.
6. It carries nearly seven million people a year
In 2003 Jet2 carried 604,563 people on 5,542 flights. By 2016 that was up to 6.7m on 41,796 flights.
7. Which makes it one of the largest airlines in the UK
Behind BA, EasyJet and Flybe, Jet2 is the UK’s fourth largest airline, ahead of Virgin Atlantic, in terms of passengers carried.
8. It only flies two types of aircraft
With a fleet of 75 aircraft, Jet2 relies on just two models: the Boeing 737 and the larger 757. It has orders for 13 of new 737s, which will take its fleet up to 88. According to Telegraph Travel’s glimpse at a week in the life of an average aircraft, Jet2’s planes work pretty hard, with one totting up 23,777 miles in just seven days of flying.
9. It has a 32-year-old plane
The issue of the reliability of elderly aircraft was raised last summer when a 31-year-old Jet2 737 (now 32) made two emergency landings in as many weeks. Passengers were never at risk, Jet2 said, but commentators were quick to point out the age of the aircraft. Registered as G-CELI, it was manufactured in 1986 for Lufthansa. But are older planes really more likely to go wrong? Not according to Patrick Smith, a US pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential. "Commercial aircraft are built to last more or less indefinitely, which is one of the reasons why they’re so expensive," he told Telegraph Travel. "It’s common for a jet to remain in service for 25 years or more."
10. It flies transatlantic
As well as plethora of coastal holiday destinations across Europe, including just about every island in the Canaries and the Balaerics, Jet2 also flies to New York from a number of regional airports, including Leeds Bradford, East Midlands and, from next winter, Belfast. That brings Jet2’s total destinations to 65 from nine UK airports.
11. Jet2 has excellent time-keeping
According to air travel analysts OAG, Jet2 was the most punctual airline in the 12 months up to September last year. It was the only British carrier to achieve a five-star rating, with 87.5 per cent of its flights running on time.
12. Telegraph readers are fans
Jet2 rose two places in Telegraph Travel’s annual awards last year, ranking fourth in the short-haul airline category, behind only Aurigny Air, Icelandair and Swiss, and beating the likes of KLM, Lufthansa and EasyJet.
13. It will happily fly with just one passenger
Contrary to its excellent load factor, Jet2, as evidenced last October, will sometimes have a few spare seats. Last year, author Karon Grieve booked onto the airline’s Glasgow to Crete service, paying £46 for the privilege, only to find she was the sole passenger. The pilot of the 737 addressed her personally throughout the flight, providing her with a running commentary. “My suitcase was handed to me as soon as the flight touched down,” she added. “I didn't even have to wait at the dreaded baggage carousel.”
14. Beach break in Dusseldorf?
Finally, the airline came under the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in 2011 when it promised £9.99 seats as part of its summer sun flight sale on a poster adorned with sun, sand and sea, but with only Belfast, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf included in the offer. Cues complaints that these three are not exactly overwhelmed with sun, sand or sea.