Philip Meeson is retiring. The 75-year old aviation entrepreneur, who transformed Jet2 into Britain’s leading package holiday airline from a provincial cargo carrier, will step down.
After the Covid-19 travel restrictions, the news was met with a 10% drop in shares for the Yorkshire-based £2.5billion company.
Meeson is a former RAF aerobatics pilot who will step down from executive duties in the near future. He was responsible for one of the greatest success stories in British aviation of this century. Jet2 succeeded when other companies such as Thomas Cook or Monarch were failing.
In 1983, he acquired Channel Express, a business that transports aircraft. In 1988, he floated his business interests on the stock exchange as Dart Group. In 1988, he sold his road haulage business and scaled back on air freight. He launched Jet2 package holidays in the North, before moving to London Stansted as the second largest operator.
His 18% stake in Jet2 is valued at £450 million .
Jet2’s founder said that he had delegated responsibilities in recent years to a management group led by the highly regarded Steve Heapy. He said that he would hand over control after a successful financial year which showed that the Group was recovering from the crisis it shared with other industries during the pandemic.
Meeson will become non-executive chair “during this year” and stay in the role until a replacement is named.
Meeson stated in a press release that his legacy would be “the largest package holidays provider in the UK and a trusted UK leisure travel brand, with an excellent in-house airline”. He added: “I’m aware of my age, and I need to plan a smooth succession.”
Jet2 announced a pre-tax profit of £371million for the year ending March, on revenues of just under £5 billion. The company had a loss of £388 millions in the year before Covid-19 impact.
Jet2’s recovery from pandemic is evident in the results. It made £153m in pre-tax profit on revenues of £3.5b.
Dividends are now being paid at 8p per share.
The company was cautious about the future. In a press release, the company said that it was aware of how rapidly the macroeconomic environment changes and how this could affect future consumer spending. As the summer peak months of July August and September are still not complete, plus the majority winter seat capacity for 2023-24 is yet to be sold, it’s too early to give a definitive guideline on the group’s profitability at the end of the financial year.
It continued to believe that “the end-to-end holiday package is a resilient, popular product in difficult economic times”.
After a nine-month rally that saw the stock more than double in price, Jet2 shares fell 123p.