The Unplanned Journey of Johan Lundgren: From Musician to easyJet CEO

The Unplanned Journey of Johan Lundgren: From Musician to easyJet CEO

In a parallel universe, Johan Lundgren would have become a professional musician and never ended up as CEO of one of the world’s biggest airlines.

The Swede started playing the trombone at the age of 11 and was good enough to land scholarships that took him to Britain and the US. However, Lundgren wasn’t quite good enough to get into the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

He started working as a tour guide on a cruise ship between the Swedish capital and what was then called Leningrad in Russia. The job came about partly because he had some knowledge of Russian history and culture from playing Russian music.

Lundgren progressed to a small company that organized business travel to the Soviet Union during the period of the 1990s when the Soviet Union opened up after Communism failed. After that, he became a sales director for a tour operator owned by the airline SAS.

He spent many years at TUI, one of Europe’s biggest travel companies, rising to deputy CEO by the time he left in 2015. The Swede returned to his musical roots by opening a recording studio on the Spanish island of Majorca in the Mediterranean.

One day, a headhunter asked Lundgren what company he might like to run. “I said ‘easyJet,’ without really thinking much about it,” he recalls.


Why easyJet?

If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, chances are you’ve flown easyJet – the airline has about 1,000 routes in 35 countries, and operates from 155 airports. It’s cheaper than the “legacy” carriers such as British Airways, but still operates from primary airports such as London Gatwick or Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

There wasn’t a vacancy at the time, but when the CEO left a few months later, Lundgren threw his hat in the ring — and got the job. It’s almost six years to the day that he took up the role, and he loves his work. “It’s an extraordinary privilege to do this … even on a bad day. It’s something that matters to millions and millions of people.”


Data-driven Innovations

Lundgren believes that the experience of flying with easyJet is usually a good one. The airline is using technology and artificial intelligence to reduce disruption and delays. It predicts pressure points and optimizes schedules by utilizing data. Lundgren says, “Data is just going to be a gamechanger.”

EasyJet also uses data for dynamic pricing, not just on fares but on ancillary charges as well.


Grounded Perks

Being the CEO of easyJet comes with its own perks. Lundgren took home almost £3 million, or $3.76 million, last year. He believes that easyJet’s huge number of takeoff and landing slots at Europe’s most popular airports will only get more valuable, and the company can increase passenger numbers without adding more flights.


A Journey Worth Taking

Johan Lundgren’s career was not planned, but one thing led to another and he ended up where he is now. He remains humble and focused on doing his best for easyJet customers, staff, and shareholders. And although he may have traded in his trombone for the CEO role, he believes it was a blessing in disguise.


Source: He wanted to be a trombone player. Instead, he ended up as CEO of one of the world’s biggest airlines.

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