EasyJet holidays, which offers package holidays to Portugal, restarted its operation on Monday by bringing its first customers of the year out from the UK to Faro. It plans to bring many more out over the summer, and a new seasonal airline base in Faro airport will open next month for the low cost airline. “We will have airplanes and crews based in Faro, that means that we can offer great flexibility and flight times to customers from the United Kingdom”, said Matt Callaghan, easyJet holidays Director of Customer & Operations in an interview with The Portugal News.

The interview was held at a drinks reception hosted by easyJet holidays, on the terrace of the Tivoli Vilamoura hotel, to celebrate the restart of Portugal holidays with their local partners, which included hotel partners, tourism bodies and airport authorities.

According to Matt Callaghan, the company will have nearly 200 flights over the next couple of weeks coming into Portugal and this is set to rise as the summer progresses. “It will increase significantly and at the peak we will have close to 200 flights every week”.

The Director of Customer & Operations is proud that: “We are the first major tour operator from the UK to restart operations”, adding that the airline already put tens of thousands of additional seats on sale and increased holidays capacity across existing routes to Portugal.

Furthermore, despite recognising that the whole country is important, the Algarve, due to its characteristics, stands out for holiday makers. “I think all of Portugal is important for customers but we see that for holiday customers, the Algarve offers something different than Lisbon and Porto. Now we are coming into the summer when people are looking for a beach holiday destination”, highlighted Matt Callaghan.

And the number of bookings for the Algarve keeps on rising. “As soon as the green list was announced and we saw that Portugal was on there, we saw that bookings to the Algarve really increased”, he said.

Matt Callaghan, who travelled to Faro for the return of holidays, said: “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, and we’re really excited to be welcoming our first customers of 2021 back on their well-deserved holidays. We’ve had a fantastic response already from the customers we’ve met today, and we’re seeing the excitement of others who are travelling this week”.

As part of its flexible customer policies known as the Protection Promise, and in anticipation of the introduction of the traffic light system, easyJet holidays recently further enhanced its Covid commitments for customers looking to travel this summer. Customers could already make changes to their holiday, fee free, up to 28 days before departure and now, if their holiday is on the ‘amber’ list for example, customers can make changes up to 24 hours before travel.

Regarding testing, Matt Callaghan speaking at the event, and then to The Portugal News, reaffirmed that the UK government must drive down the cost of testing and review and remove testing for green, low risk countries, because “green should really mean green.”

The holiday operator had cancelled all holidays since December 2020 in response to travel restrictions and FCO travel warnings. Following the government’s travel announcement on 7 May, holidays to green list destinations Portugal and Gibraltar are once again taking off this week.