EasyJet grounds entire fleet over coronavirus

LONDON (AFP) – British airline easyJet yesterday said it had grounded its entire fleet because of the coronavirus pandemic but would still be available for rescue flights to repatriate stranded customers.

“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,” it said in a statement.

“At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights.”

The carrier, which already last week began to ground a majority of its planes, added yesterday that it had so far operated 650 rescue flights, returning more than 45,000 customers.

“The last of these rescue flights were operated on Sunday… We will continue to work with government bodies to operate additional rescue flights as requested,” easyJet said.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren noted that crew members had volunteered to operate rescue flights.

“I am extremely proud of the way in which people across easyJet have given their absolute best at such a challenging time,” he said in the statement.

Following the full grounding of its planes, easyJet said that for two months from tomorrow, crew would be paid 80 per cent of their average pay thanks to an emergency scheme introduced by the United Kingdom (UK) government to keep workers in jobs.

“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,” the airline said.

“EasyJet maintains a strong balance sheet, with no debt re-financings due until 2022. We are in ongoing discussions with liquidity providers who recognise our strength of (our) balance sheet and business model.”

Aircraft operated by British low cost airline Easyjet at Tegel airport in Berlin on December 29, 2019. PHOTO: AFP