Jet2 arrival raises Ryanair’s competitive hackles

Jet2 operating out of Liverpool Airport for the first time yields an unexpected bonus as Ryanair tells LBN its latest £80m investment at LJLA is partly motivated by its rival’s arrival. Tony McDonough reports

Passengers board a Ryanair aircraft at Liverpool John Lennon Airport


Few sectors are as reactive and competitive as budget airlines and there is already clear evidence Jet2’s arrival at Liverpool is having a positive knock-on effect for the airport. and Jet2holidays started operating from Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) on March 28 following the Leeds-based carrier’s initial announcement in 2023.

On the day of the launch Jet2’s chief executive Steve Heapy said customer demand for the 24 LJLA summer routes had been “phenomenal”. It is offering 20 summer routes to European destinations and a further eight during the winter.

And Jet2 is so pleased with ticket sales so far it is already planning to increase capacity out of LJLA for summer 2025 with three extra destinations to Malaga, Malta and Reus and more than 730,000 seats on sale.

For decades Ryanair and easyJet have been the main players at LJLA, offering more than 50 routes between them. Wizz Air has also grown its presence while Lufthansa and Aer Lingus now offer global hub access via Frankfurt and Dublin.

Now Jet2 has swooped in and immediately become one of the biggest players at LJLA with it fleet of four aircraft (five from next summer). And now there are signs at least one competitor is gearing up to compete.

Ryanair is already the biggest carrier at Liverpool by number of routes and earlier this month, less than two weeks after the Jet2 launch it announced a beefing up of its presence.

It is adding three new routes to its summer 2024 schedule out of LJLA taking the total to 32 in an investment worth £80m. And in an interview with LBN the Irish carrier’s head of communications, Jade Kirwan, admitted Jet2’s arrival was a factor in the investment.

She said: “We look at a lot of things. Primarily what we would look at is the catchment and the demand associated with that. We ask ‘will these routes be commercially viable?’ because we are a commercial business at the end of the day.

“Are our aircraft in the right place and do we have long-term cost certainty? If there is an airport half an hour away operating that route every single day are people going to want to have it in this airport?

“Competition will always be one of the things we will look at. Jet2 has three aircraft based at Liverpool during the summer. We will have an extra aircraft at Liverpool this summer taking the total to five and that is a big investment.

“With increased frequencies across other routes as well there will be 11% growth in our operations at Liverpool and that is substantial.

“It isn’t necessarily a reaction (to Jet2) but if we see other competitors coming in we do need to stay relevant and ensure we are delivering the best choice and the lowest fares to customers. That is our bread and butter – that is what we do.”

Jet2’s launch at Liverpool makes it almost certain LJLA will break through the 5m passenger barrier in 2024 for the first time in several years.

Last week LBN revealed the airport’s passenger numbers had risen by 18% to 923,500 in the first three months of 2024. This is even before Jet2’s take-off. Increased competition can only benefit LJLA further.


First ever Jet2 flight prepares to take off from Liverpool John Lennon Airport bound for Tenerife
ryanair, aircraft
Ryanair is investing an extra £80m into its Liverpool operations


Jade also talked about one of Ryanair’s biggest bugbears – Air Passenger Duty (APD) – which it has been vocal about for a number of years. Last year the UK Government cut APD on domestic routes from £13 to £6.50, although it is now going up again to £7.

On the initial cut, Jade said: “We responded to that by growing out routes. That is not just something we do in the UK, it is something we do everywhere. 

“Our goal is always two deliver the lowest fares possible and the best choices. To do that we need to keep our operational costs low. To be able to deliver the low fares we need a very lean operation to facilitate that.

“This year we went back to operating cost per customer of €31 per customer. That was where we were pre-COVID. If you look at eastJet they are up in the 70s. It means we can undercut everyone – it is what makes us the success we are.

“Any costs, whether it is at airport level or at Government level, impinge on that. APD did go down and we responded to that favourably. If costs are lowered we will bring in new routes and increase connectivity.

“Not so much for the London hub, but for regional UK airports APD plays a huge role and if you are looking for those £20 fares they are just not as achievable when there is a cost in the middle.

“It is something the Government does need to take a long-term stance on.”

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