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EasyJet, Ryanair and BA make huge cuts to flights due to coronavirus

EasyJet announced it has slashed its flight schedules due to ‘unprecedented’ travel restrictions and a sharp fall in demand.

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EasyJet said the ‘majority’ of its fleet could be grounded in the future (EasyJet/PA)

EasyJet said the ‘majority’ of its fleet could be grounded in the future (EasyJet/PA)

EasyJet said the ‘majority’ of its fleet could be grounded in the future (EasyJet/PA)

Flight schedules have been slashed by the UK’s busiest airlines due to coronavirus.

EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways have all reduced flights amid travel restrictions and a huge drop in demand.

“Further significant cancellations” were announced by easyJet, which warned the “majority” of its planes could be grounded in the future.

Ryanair announced that most of its aircraft will stop flying in the next seven to 10 days and “a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out”.

European aviation faces a precarious futureEasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren

British Airways’ parent company IAG revealed that its capacity for April and May would be cut by “at least 75%” compared with the same period in 2019.

EasyJet said in a statement there is “no guarantee” that European airlines “will survive what could be a long-term travel freeze and the risks of a slow recovery”.

The airline went on to say it is taking “every action to remove cost and non-critical expenditure from the business at every level”, adding that grounding aircraft “will remove significant levels of variable costs”.

It insisted it “maintains a strong balance sheet” including £1.6 billion cash and a 500 million US dollars (£405 million) credit facility.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “At easyJet we are doing everything in our power to rise to the challenges of the coronavirus so that we can continue to provide the benefits that aviation brings to people, the economy and business.

“We continue to operate rescue and repatriation flights to get people home where we can, so they can be with family and friends in these difficult times.

“European aviation faces a precarious future and it is clear that co-ordinated government backing will be required to ensure the industry survives and is able to continue to operate when the crisis is over.”

Rise in coronavirus cases
(PA Graphics)

IAG announced that chief executive Willie Walsh – who was due to step down from the role next week – has agreed to delay his retirement “for a short period” to provide stability.

The group said it is taking actions to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flow, including “temporarily suspending employment contracts and reducing working hours”, grounding aircraft, reducing capital spending and cutting “non-essential” IT spend.

It added that it has “total liquidity” of 9.3 billion euros (£8.4 billion).

Mr Walsh said: “We have seen a substantial decline in bookings across our airlines and global network over the past few weeks and we expect demand to remain weak until well into the summer.

“We are therefore making significant reductions to our flying schedules. We will continue to monitor demand levels and we have the flexibility to make further cuts if necessary.

“We are also taking actions to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flow at each of our airlines. IAG is resilient with a strong balance sheet and substantial cash liquidity.”

We want to make sure that companies and individuals and organisations who are in a good state – not those that are going to fail anyway – are able to continueTransport Secretary Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there are “lots of different options” to help the aviation industry through the coronavirus crisis.

He told Sky News: “We want to make sure that companies and individuals and organisations who are in a good state – not those that are going to fail anyway – are able to continue.”

Asked if a bailout of airlines was on the table, Mr Shapps said: “There are lots of different options here – including some other things that people have been looking for, for example HMRC offer a ‘time to pay’.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We recognise how difficult the current situation is for the aviation sector and we are engaging with the sector’s leadership at both official and ministerial level in order to support workers, businesses and passengers.”

HMRC was ready to help “all business, including airlines, experiencing temporary financial difficulties due to coronavirus”.

PA