Budget carrier EasyJet has acquired an Atol licence for 185,000 passengers for this summer.
Confirmation of the new Atol (number 11446) appeared on the CAA Atol check facility on its website this morning.
The 184,994 passenger licence is for more than the 166,450 customers easyJet Holidays is licenced to carry for the entire year.
EasyJet Holidays (Atol number 10915) is currently operated by a partner, Hotelbeds subsidiary Hotelopia, and has previously been touted as a potential top three player in Europe.
UK regulator the CAA has also published an exemption for easyJet Airline Company and its other associated entities in Europe, associated with its new Atol.
This sets out the circumstances in which a sale of flight accommodation on the carrier’s website is not protected by the Atol scheme.
Airlines are technically not required to have an Atol and new Package Travel Regulations which became law this week set out the circumstances under which sales of air-inclusive packages do not require financial protection.
An easyJet spokesman said the move was to cover third-party product sold via the easyJet website under the new package travel regulations.
He said: “easyJet is in favour of protection for customers and those booking package holidays with easyJet holidays are already fully protected through the ATOL scheme. We’re fully compliant with the new regulations.”
The move to acquire an Atol comes after the budget airline has brought tour operating knowhow and experience into its senior management team.
The carrier appointed former Tui Group product and purchasing managing director Garry Wilson as chief executive of easyJet Holidays in May as it set out its intention to create a major pan-European holiday firm.
He joined new chief executive Johan Lundgren who has substantial experience as a tour operator including 12 years at Tui Group where he rose to group deputy chief executive officer and chief executive officer, mainstream markets.
But the airline’s spokesman told Travel Weekly that the Atol licence was not preparation for a wider roll-out of easyJet’s package holiday division.
EasyJet Holidays began trading in 2011 with the now-defunct Lowcost Travel Group supplying accommodation saying at the time it aimed to be “in the top three to five” in the UK holiday market.
It switched fulfilment partner in 2014 to the Hotelopia division of Hotelbeds, then part of Tui Travel, declaring it would be “a strong number three” in Europe, and re-launched its easyJet Holidays site in the UK and announced plans to open sites in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
EasyJet Holidays has to date been used by the budget airline to drive incremental bookings for the airline and accommodation partners have been restricted from competing against the carrier by bidding on the top performing holiday keywords on Google.
Speaking to a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast audience in June 2017 Dame Carolyn McCall, the then outgoing chief executive of easyJet, said the holidays division needed to be “someone’s top priority” if it was going to scale.
“It’s something that we have thought about quite a lot but it’s never been as front of mind as it should be when you are dealing with 78 million passengers,” she said.
“We are going through a process to see how we are going to do that. We have to give it its own bottom line. It has to be separated a little because the main business will overwhelm it.”
Wilson’s appointment was one of five board appointments announced in May, with Luca Zuccoli hired from data analytics firm Experian as chief data officer and Flic Howard-Allen joining from Associated British Foods as group communications officer.
In addition Lis Blair moved from her role as easyJet customer relationship management and insight director to become chief marketing officer and country director for Germany, Austria and Switzerland while Thomas Haagensen became group markets director.
The airline reported a 19.5% rise in revenue to £2.18 billion for the six months to March and an operating profit of £8 million compared with a £212 million loss a year earlier.
The carrier’s capacity for the second half of the year will be 13% up year on year across Europe against an overall market increase in short-haul capacity of 5%.