Just like in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of Europe finds itself under lockdown as governments try to stem a flood of new infections, record hospitalisations and mounting deaths. For now, airlines are back at square one with passengers urged to delay anything but the most urgent of travel needs.
Reacting to the latest travel restrictions, low-cost airline easyJet says it expects to fly no more than 10 per cent of its 2019 schedule in the current quarter. In the last three months of 2020, easyJet was operating around 18 per cent of its 2019 schedule during which revenue plummeted by 88 per cent.
“Our performance in the period was in line with management expectations, despite more stringent restrictions coming into place,” commented easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren. His comments reflect the fact that many airlines had been preparing for a very tough winter season.
Airlines have, however, been caught off-guard by the extent of travel restrictions that have been imposed in recent days and weeks – especially given the length some of these restrictions might remain in force because of new virus variants that jeopardise mass vaccinations efforts.
Earlier this week, Lundgren joined other airline chief executives including from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in signing an open letter calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to create a “roadmap” for recovery alongside a bespoke state-backed financial rescue package.
“The key to unlocking travel is going to be the vaccination programmes combined with governments progressively removing restrictions when it is safe to,” Lundgren commented on Thursday.
Research carried out on behalf of easyJet revealed that there remains a hunger to travel as soon as it’s possible to do so. Around 65 per cent of European consumers plan to book a holiday at some point in 2021, while that figure rose to three quarters amongst existing easyJet customers.
easyJet said it had the resources available to ramp up its operation rapidly as soon as travel restrictions can be eased. The airline recently advertised for new cabin crew on seasonal summer contracts, although governments remain tight-lipped as to when it will actually be possible to lift international travel bans.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.