EasyJet is set to cut hundreds of flights following the government’s announcement that the country is to go into a second lockdown on Thursday.
The airline is Gatwick’s biggest operator.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren called on the Government to boost support for UK aviation companies, which he said are in a “fight for survival” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“EasyJet will be reviewing its flying programme over the lockdown period. It is likely that much of the UK touching schedule will be cancelled during lockdown with our planned flying set to resume in early December. We will advise customers who are booked to travel over the next month of their options with a view to assisting customers to return to the country in the coming days.” Johan Lundgren, easyJet Chief Executive.
Mr Lundgren said that an industry-wide call for sector specific support had never been more urgent: “The government has recognised the need to directly support the hospitality sector, where decisions have directly affected its ability to trade. The same principle needs to be applied to aviation. The government’s own statistics show that activity in aviation is already 90% down on pre-pandemic levels, yet to date the government has still failed to provide any sector specific support.”
EasyJet secured a £600 million loan from the Bank of England’s emergency coronavirus fund in April, but Mr Lundgren said in terms of overall support for UK aviation “I don’t think there has been enough”.
European airline firms such as Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Norwegian are among those to receive major financial backing from their home countries during the pandemic.
He warned that rival airlines could use state aid from their own countries to “grab market share.”
Mr Lundgren said he is “as frustrated as anyone” about the “ever-changing rules” relating to the UK’s quarantine policy, and described progress towards testing travellers as slow.
He revealed easyJet enjoyed a surge in demand for flights to the Canary Islands after they were added to the quarantine exemption list last month, with sales “through the roof”.
This shows the drop in overall passenger numbers is due to restrictions implemented by governments rather than people not wanting to fly, Mr Lundgren claimed.
EasyJet warned in May it planned to cut up to a third of jobs, but it has since been able to secure agreements with unions to limit compulsory redundancies.
Asked if further job losses are likely, Mr Lundgren replied: “That is something that we need to continue to monitor.
“There’s no certainty.”