Stelios Haji-Ioannou: Interview

The Internet is revolutionising the ways in which the consumer can book their holidays. With
more online companies enabling the individual to cut out the traditional travel agent,
is there much hope left for the middleman?
This week we
speak to easyGroup founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou to find out his views on the impact that the Internet has had on the
travel industry, his predictions for the forthcoming year, and whether putting Internet
workstations into McDonalds outlets was such a good idea?

1. The year 2002 has been a turbulent one for the travel sector. How has the slump affected the
easyGroup network?

We haven`t noticed any `slump` with the easyGroup companies. I think that if consumers become
concerned that they might be affected by an economic downturn their immediate reaction is to
tighten their belts. Thus they stop flying business class and instead use easyJet, or stop using
Hertz and use easyCar.

2. Airlines have been hard hit since the terrible terrorist attacks of 2001. The market remained
negative in 2002 with UAL filing for Chapter 11 in The United States. Do you feel that 2003 will
be the year of the low fare airlines and budget carriers? If so what will easyJet be offering?

I have now stepped down from the chair of easyJet in order to concentrate on my smaller
companies. Therefore the airline`s strategy will be decided by its board and management who will
no doubt represent their shareholders to the best of their abilities. Since the terrible events of
september 11 the long haul, traditional airlines have been in retreat and the short haul low cost
sector, relatively unscathed, have filled the void. The low cost, no frills sector is expanding fast
as can be seen from the easyJet order for 120 brand new Airbus aircraft.

3. Research suggests that more people are getting online with the advent of highspeed
Internet access.
How popular has easyJet’s online booking system proved to be?

The Internet has been an excellent sales mechanism for easyGroup companies and price
incentive’s have been the way of getting consumers to go online. easyJet distributes close to 90%
online and easyCar rents out 95% of its cars via the internet.
4. Have you seen an increase of online booking in your easyInternet stores? If so, with easyJet flights being booked in easyInternet cafes, then it appears that you are onto a real winner. Was this ever one of your aims?

easyInternetcafe, my chain of
Internet cafes, can get close to 2 million visitors globally in a month. Most of the
easyInternetcafe customers are checking their emails or using the Internet for a variety of reasons.
We did not set up easyInternetcafe solely as a point of sales for other easyGroup companies. Of
course you can rent a car from easyCar from an easyInternetcafe, but the reason we opened
Internet cafes was to provide fast, cheap Internet access to the public at large.

5. Are you a dedicated user of the net? Do you feel secure in putting your bank details on the

Yes, I use the Internet all the time but I`m not a ‘techy’. The easyGroup office software is web
based and as I travel a lot I can check my email from any browser in the world. I`m quite at home
with e-commerce as well in terms of entering my credit card details online. I don`t think this is
any more or less risky than giving your credit card to a cashier in a shop.


6. easyCar takes 95% of its bookings online - do you feel that the Internet is the way forward? If
so, will Travel Agents eventually be over turned by an individuals’ ability to book and confirm
all of their holiday details on the web?

The Internet is another nail in the coffin for the travel agents. There is no such thing as a free
lunch so there is little reason for consumers to pay a middleman when they can deal direct with
suppliers online.

7. What are your views on the travel industry’s performance in 2002? Did heavy discounting
assist the system, and should this continue in 2003?

Discounting is a feature of distressed inventory and if you price correctly this should not happen.
In all easyGroup companies we yield manage, changing the price according to demand. This
works on the principle that the earlier you book, the less you pay which we see as the fairest
system. Customers that sacrifice flexibility for the best prices book well in advance and they
create the demand that raises the price for customers that want the convenience of booking late.

8. What are you predictions for the travel industry in 2003?

More bankruptcies among transport providers that operate outdated business models that feed off
the corporate market, such as traditional airlines and car hire companies. Consumers will
continue to go online for best prices and convenience where they can examine prices, inventory
and timings in a fully transparent environment. In other words you can see for yourself, you don`t
have to rely on someone who wants to sell you something.

9. Finally, now that you have Internet ports in certain McDonalds restaurants, how do you feel
about the recent stock reports, customer spending trends and the possible clousure of 175 outlets

I am not an expert in selling burgers so I must leave McDonalds to run their own business.
However, by putting easyInternetcafe branches in public spaces such as McDonalds we can help
to increase footfall. This is a complementary business too as it does not compete with
McDonald`s business and helps to fill their premises during quieter periods, specifically outside