Coach operator opinion: ‘Quietly whisper c’est la vie’

Coach operator opinion: Delta variant causes problems

It’s the Monday morning after the night before. My young son is probably still moping around at school after England’s latest defeat on penalties, while I am moping around the office wondering which one of my staff will be pinged by the NHS COVID-19 app, or which school will be sending all pupils home next.

As long as it isn’t one that my own children attend, I will give my now traditional shrug of the shoulders and quietly whisper c’est la vie, or something that rhymes with Donald Duck.

Delta variant upsetting plans

You see, it’s the hope that kills you. Just as my children thought that England would be European champions, I naively thought that we might be in the rebuilding stage of the business.

Prior to the arrival of the Delta variant, bookings were incredibly strong. A bit like SAGE mortality modelling, I had been way too pessimistic. School and private hire work was coming in at a very pleasing rate and the office phones never seemed to stop ringing with holiday bookings – so much so that I was complaining about all the calls that I was personally answering, after I had promised never to do that again.

That optimism has now well and truly gone, and all the work that we had booked in has slowly been whittled away to next to nothing. That’s perhaps fortunate in some ways, as half of my drivers seem to be self-isolating! Talking to a friend in the industry, we both agreed that it would have been easier to take had that work never been booked in the first place. On the plus side, holiday sales remain very strong.

How to make plans in the face of uncertainty?

What we are left with is uncertainty. Like anyone in business, I hate that. Every August I sit down and think abut the following year and what I want to prioritise or where I think the next opportunity will be. Usually, it is a bit of movement on contracts, tweaking the holiday brochure or making the fleet more flexible (up-seating to 70, and the like).

This time, the canvas is completely blank – but I need to be as certain as possible that whatever I paint on it sticks and doesn’t run and make a potentially disastrous mess.

‘One thing is for certain: I will carry on’

Do we try to win more contracts? They are guaranteed income, but not the most lucrative line of work. Extend the holiday programme further and hopefully cash in on uncertainty around European travel? Really go for PSVAR? The extensions will not last forever, and there may be opportunities. Or extend our local bus services and hope that one of the big boys makes us an offer?

One thing is for certain, though: I will be carrying on. As it was pointed out to me by friends, and backed up by my wife on Saturday night, I am not really wired up to work for someone else.

Enjoy the summer.