EasyJet Grounds Entire Fleet Due to Travel Bans

 - March 30, 2020, 12:04 PM
Crews at London Gatwick Airport prepare Easyjet Airbus A320s for turnaround. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY) by HHA124L)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

UK budget airline EasyJet on Monday said it would suspend all scheduled operations and ground its fleet of 334 Airbus A320-family jets due to travel restrictions imposed by European governments amid the Covid-19 outbreak. The move comes a day after the airline operated the last of some 650 rescue flights to repatriate more than 45,000 customers.

In a statement, EasyJet said it could not estimate a date for restarting commercial flights at this early stage. "We will continuously evaluate the situation based on regulations and demand, and will update the market when we have a view," it said. "We continue to take every action to remove cost and non-critical expenditure from the business at every level in order to help mitigate the impact from the coronavirus.  The grounding of aircraft removes significant cost."

EasyJet also said it would furlough 4,000 UK cabin crew for two months starting April 1. Those employees will receive 80 percent of their salaries through a government retention scheme. The London Luton-based airline, which employs some 9,000 people in the UK, remains in talks with the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) over a plan for pilot furloughs.

On Monday, Balpa called on the UK government to “stop delaying details of the support it is offering to aviation through the coronavirus crisis.”

Balpa said that apart from EasyJet, “all other airlines are scaling back to virtually zero flights.”

“EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic, and Loganair have been reported as calling for urgent government help and Flybe, the first casualty of the coronavirus, should not be overlooked,” Balpa said in a statement.

“We saw the impact that coronavirus had on Flybe and predicted then that other airlines would suffer severely if no help was offered,” added Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton. “The government promised that it would implement bespoke packages of support for the aviation industry, but where are they?

“Airlines have done what they can to mitigate the effect of having almost no revenue for the summer, their key earning period, as they were asked to do,” said Strutton. "Now the government needs to fulfill its promise to help, before it is too late.”