Home / News / Announcements / celebrates 20 years of award-winning flights celebrates 20 years of award-winning flights

Published: Sun 12 Feb 2023 at 12:00


In February 2003, welcomed its first customers onboard, and today over 100 million happy holidaymakers later, the leading leisure airline is celebrating 20 years since its first day of flying.

To mark the occasion, hosted a birthday-themed celebration with customers and colleagues, including 40 colleagues also celebrating their 20th anniversary with the airline. The morning of celebration was held at the company’s first ever base, Leeds Bradford Airport, where exactly 20 years ago today its first flight departed to Amsterdam.

Customers flying with the airline from Leeds Bradford Airport received a VIP customer experience at check-in, which included a red-carpet welcome, balloon arch, birthday cake and goodie bags. A band helped get customers into the holiday spirit as they checked in, and three lucky customers who were also celebrating their birthday on the same day received a pair of free return flights.

The lucky customers included Peter Melling from York who was travelling to Portugal, Joanne Withers from Pontefract who was travelling to Lanzarote, and Margaret Wood from Knaresborough who was travelling to Malaga.

Today’s celebration marks 20 years since the first ever flight took off from Leeds Bradford Airport to Amsterdam in 2003. With two aircraft serving eight destinations from Leeds Braford that first summer, the company has since experienced substantial growth and success to become the UK’s third largest airline flying to 68 top sun, city and ski destinations across the Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Europe from across ten UK bases. The huge programme now on sale with represents over 440 routes across all seasons, offering customers unrivalled choice when booking and travelling on award-winning flights to these hotspots.

For Summer 23 alone, will operate a fleet of 115 aircraft this summer flying to 56 sunshine destinations.

The popularity of’s VIP customer service, friendly low fares, great flight times and generous 22kg baggage allowance (plus 10kg hand baggage) has enabled the airline to grow substantially in those two decades. This combination of friendly low fares and industry leading customer service means has won a number of coveted industry awards for customer service over the last 20 years. These include Which? Travel Brand of the Year (2018 and 2022), Best Airline – UK, Europe, Low-Cost Europe and Economy Class Europe at the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® Awards for Airlines and was ranked 5th in the top Ten Airlines of the World category.

In 2007, the company launched package holiday specialist Jet2holidays, which today is the UK’s leading tour operator to many leisure destinations across the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. Through Jet2holidays, the company offers great value, ATOL protected package holidays to 68 top sun destinations across the Mediterranean and Canary Islands, with thousands of 2-5-star hotels available and flights with from across ten UK bases. Holidaymakers booking through Jet2holidays, receive VIP customer service, in-resort Customer Helpers, 24/7 customer helpline, transfers, free child places and ATOL protection, all for a low £60 per person booking deposit.

Since the first day of flying on 12th February 2003, the company has:

  • Carried more than 100 million customers on its award-winning flights, with Alicante, Tenerife and Majorca proving to be the most popular destinations.
  • Served over 13 million cups of tea, more than three million KitKats and over 14 million bags of crisps, with cheese and onion being the most popular flavour.
  • Launched flights from nine new bases, including Belfast International (2004), Manchester (2004), Newcastle International (2005), Edinburgh (2006), East Midlands (2010), Glasgow (2011), Birmingham (2017), London Stansted (2017) and Bristol (2021).
  • Received multiple awards for customer service, including Which? Travel Brand of the Year (2018 and 2022), Best Airline – UK, Europe, Low-Cost Europe and Economy Class Europe at the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® Awards for Airlines and Which? Recommended Provider status for the last six years. has also been ranked 5th in Top 10 Airlines of the World category by TripAdvisor at the Travellers’ Choice® Awards for Airlines.
  • Increased its fleet size to 115 aircraft for Summer ‘23 from two in 2003.
  • Increased number of seats from 400,000 in Summer ‘03 to 15 million seats in Summer ‘23.

The growth of and Jet2holidays means that the companies now employ over 12,000 colleagues in the UK and overseas to provide the award-winning customer service that they are famous for. This compares to just 80 when the company first launched in 2003.

Steve Heapy, CEO of and Jet2holidays, said: “Today marks 20 years of, and we are delighted to be celebrating this key milestone with our customers and colleagues. Our anniversary provides the ideal opportunity to look back and reflect upon all that has been achieved since we first launched. When we first started operating flights 20 years ago, VIP customer service, great flight times and value were key for customers, and this formula remains just as important to this day. By placing these values at the heart of everything we do for the past two decades, we have gone from strength to strength and expanded to become the UK’s third largest airline. That has only been possible thanks to everyone at and our loyal customers.”

He added: “As well as celebrating, we are also looking forward too. Thanks to our continued investment into building a company that is focused on delivering a VIP customer service, we are very confident about the future. Our unrivalled flying programme combined with our family friendly formula of outstanding customer service, great flight times and value means we are looking forward to another successful 20 years and beyond for, and Jet2holidays.”

Karen Robinson, General Manager of Cabin Services at and Jet2holidays, who is also celebrating her 20th anniversary, said: “When I joined in 2003 things were very different back then. We started with only 30 Cabin Crew and two aircraft, and the only thing we needed to consider was whether we were on the early or late Amsterdam flight.

“Over the last 20 years, it has been very rewarding to see the crew members who are still with us today, progress in their careers. I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues at and have been lucky enough to make lifelong friends. In fact, I met my now fiancé at 10 years ago. My daughter has also joined the company as Cabin Crew, and I could not be more delighted to see her follow in my footsteps. Here is to many more years of creating happy memories together and taking millions of happy holidaymakers on their getaways!”

View stories by subject:

View stories by month

Keep in touch with