‘My history has been around the business end of IT and my interest is what you do with IT and making change happen successfully: I’m a change junkie,” says Trevor Didcock, CIO of easyJet.
And Didcock is certainly at the right organisation to satisfy the needs of a ‘change junkie’.
EasyJet and its brash rival Ryanair helped create the low-cost airline sector in this country and the model is being copied across the planet by everyone from Formula One team owners in Asia to flag-carrying airlines creating budget models in Australia.
The pace of change that easyJet inflicts on the sector is unrelenting, Didcock tells us when we meet at the firm’s Luton headquarters, with the company continuing to unbundle every aspect of air travel and ensure that IT is in place to drive that change.
“The cause is to make travel easy for customers by making the costs transparent. By the time a customer adds the extra bits, they still have a lower price,” Didcock says of the original and existing business model foundations of easyJet, where customers can select what elements of a flight — hold luggage, priority boarding or insurance, for example — that they pay for.
“We don’t bundle and that is the DNA of easyJet. The more frequent the traveller and easyJet customer, the more they are adding,” he reveals of how regular travellers choose more of the bundle.
This in turn benefits the latest easyJet business strategy which is to extract more revenue from its customer base, a business model that broadcaster BSkyB has demonstrated really works.
“Our load factor is fantastic. Our planes are 85 per cent full, and 90 per cent in the summer. But it is not a question of filling planes: the key is high revenue to seat.”
But Didcock insists that unlike its headline-grabbing and controversial Irish rival, easyJet has customer service at its heart too.
“It’s a different attitude, we will look after you,” he says. Again, this taps into the choices of care a traveller may desire and be prepared to pay for.
EasyJet already offers the option of speedy boarding at a price, and increased legroom seats are being considered.
Didcock admits the entire boarding process is being analysed by the airline, although a recent academic study did reveal that the existing method used by the low-cost airlines was one of the most efficient.
“The option for customers is to always be able to add and do,” he says.
Allowing customers to add and do is central to the strategy of CEO Carolyn McCall to ‘Turn Europe Orange’, a major project that is being led by Didcock. The CIO has a project management office for the programme reporting to him as well as some consultants from The Boston Group.
“We are driving the business model on, the foundations are solid. EasyJet is a challenger brand that moved the dial in air travel. But the level of differentiation between low-cost and other airlines is not that great now,” he says.
EasyJet hopes to capture a sizeable chunk of the business travel market and Didcock believes the airline’s strategy of flying to key hub airports at the most convenient times rather than to disused military airbases will enable it to deliver that strategy.
“The Flexi fare is a high-priced product, but there is a window for change for the traveller and a higher margin for us,” he adds. Eighteen per cent of easyJet travellers are business customers and the company wants to increase that to 23 per cent.
“Schroders is a corporate client, we are starting to hoover up organisations that fly a lot but who are cost-conscious: that’s worrying for flag-carriers.” EasyJet is also targeting travellers it lost after the difficult 2010 the travel industry faced in the face of the Icelandic ash cloud, an air traffic control strike and December’s severe snow, all of which closed airports.