This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
EasyJet plans to reduce staff numbers by as much as 30 percent to reflect an anticipated drop in capacity in the fourth quarter as compared with the same period last year, the UK low-fare carrier said Thursday. The announcement comes a week after the airline said it would resume flying on June 15 with a schedule consisting mainly of domestic service in the UK and France.
Other “rightsizing” exercises at EasyJet will involve reorganizing the network and bases, improved productivity, and promotion of more efficient ways of working, said the airline, which noted it will launch a consultation process with employees “in the coming days.”
"We realize that these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long-term,” said EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren in a written statement. "We remain focused on doing what is right for the company and its long-term health and success, following the swift action we have taken over the last three months to meet the challenges of the virus. Although we will restart flying on 15 June, we expect demand to build slowly, only returning to 2019 levels in about three years' time.”
The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) reacted angrily to EasyJet’s announcement. “EasyJet staff will be shocked at the scale of this announcement and only two days ago staff got a ‘good news’ message from their boss with no mention of job losses, so this is a real kick in the teeth,” said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton. “Those staff have taken pay cuts to keep the airline afloat and this is the treatment they get in return.
“EasyJet has not discussed its plans with BALPA so we will wait and see what impact there will be in the UK. But given EasyJet is a British company, the UK is its strongest market and it has had hundreds of millions in support from the UK taxpayer, I can safely say that we will need a lot of convincing that EasyJet needs to make such dramatic cuts. Indeed, EasyJet’s own projections, though on the pessimistic side, point to recovery by 2023, so this is a temporary problem that doesn’t need this ill-considered knee-jerk reaction.”
In the short term, the airline reported encouraging booking trends on the planned resumed flights and improving demand indications for the summer, albeit from a low base. Bookings for winter, which includes customers rebooking coronavirus-disrupted flights for later dates, “are well ahead” of the equivalent point last year, said EasyJet.
Over the longer term, EasyJet said it expects its year-end 2021 fleet size to total about 302 aircraft, or 51 aircraft lower than the anticipated fleet size it reported to the market prior to Covid-19. It added that it plans to achieve the fleet cuts largely through deferral of new aircraft deliveries and the re-delivery of leased aircraft.
“Our fleet deal with Airbus gives EasyJet the flexibility to react to the different circumstances and varying demand environments which we may be faced within the coming period,” it said in a statement. “However, as a low-cost airline with a strong network, we believe we are well placed to benefit from customers seeking great value during that recovery period.”