European budget airline easyJet is reported to have grounded its entire fleet due to the slump in travel demand and increasing restrictions on routes it can fly. The UK based airline will now park up its entire fleet of 344 aircraft for a period of at least two months.
Entire fleet grounded
Low-cost carrier easyJet has this morning announced that it will ground its entire fleet until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The airline, which flies mostly to European destinations, has taken a massive hit from national lockdowns and government-imposed travel restrictions across the continent.
In a statement to the London Stock Exchange this morning, as reported by Sky News, the budget carrier said,
“As a result of the unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of national lockdowns across many European countries, easyJet has, today, fully grounded its entire fleet of aircraft.”
The airline said that, by parking its planes for the foreseeable future, it would remove a significant cost burden from the airline at a time when it is struggling to generate any revenue at all. As well as grounding its fleet, easyJet is furloughing its 4,000 cabin crew for a period of two months. The UK’s Government Job Retention Scheme will ensure these staff get paid 80% of their average salary while they aren’t working.
Cabin crew from easyJet have been invited to volunteer at the new Nightingale Hospitals in the UK, which are being created to provide care for the anticipated high numbers of coronavirus patients. Hospitals are being built at the Excel Center in London, and further buildings are planned in Birmingham and Manchester.
650 rescue flights operated
The low-cost carrier has not been idle over the last few weeks. Indeed, its statement today revealed that the airline has operated hundreds of repatriation flights in partnership with the UK government, and has returned more than 45,000 passengers to their nations during that time. The statement continued,
“Over recent days EasyJet has been helping to repatriate customers, having operated more than 650 rescue flights to date, returning home more than 45,000 customers.
“The last of these rescue flights were operated on Sunday March 29. We will continue to work with government bodies to operate additional rescue flights as requested.”
The airline said there is currently no certain date for restarting commercial flights. It said that all it could do in the short term would be to “continuously evaluate the situation”. It went on to say that when demand and regulations changed, it would issue further updates.
The airline has come under fire for calling for a state loan to ensure its survival whilst simultaneously pressing ahead with a shareholder dividend payout, which was estimated to be worth £174m. At least a third of that payout went to the airline’s founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou. The airline had previously said it was committed to make this payout.
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