Thursday 28 January 2021 3:40 pm

Easyjet boss: We can 'take advantage' of European rivals who got state bailouts

Easyjet’s chief executive has said not getting government bailouts like continental rivals during Covid-19 could benefit the budget carrier as it seeks to grow in Europe.

Unlike in many European countries, the UK government has not propped up the country’s airlines despite multiple calls to do so.

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But Johan Lundgren said the restrictions imposed on airlines such as Air France in return for government cash had created opportunity for carriers like Easyjet.

He told City A.M.: “It’s not always fantastic to be receiving these deals – they don’t come without restrictions.

“For example, Air France now has limits on the amount it can fly domestically or by short-haul for sustainability reasons, and that’s something we can take advantage of.”

Rebound-ready

The Swede was speaking after Easyjet revealed 90 per cent of its planes will remain grounded during the second quarter due to new Covid restrictions.

Despite the extra pain the travel restrictions will impose, he insisted the carrier was poised to bounce back from the crisis by targeting key European hubs, where legacy carriers are scaling back their short haul operations.

In addition to Gatwick, from which Easyjet will fly four more planes in the summer having bought Norwegian’s slots, Lundgren said there would be opportunities at Paris, Milan, and Geneva.

His bullishness was largely based on Easyjet’s cash reserves, which remains at an impressive £2.5bn despite nearly a year of disruption to flying schedules due to the pandemic.

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Having raised £4.5bn over the last year, he said the British Airways rival could continue to find new avenues for getting liquidity without needing government support.

However, Lundgren did renew calls for a 12-month waiver to Air Passenger Duty (APD) to spur extra demand when overseas holidays can resume.

Vaccine passports?

Unlike cruise operator Saga, however, the 54-year-old does not wish for vaccination to become mandatory for future passengers.

“That’s not the point. What’s important is working out who has the infection, and putting restrictions in place to manage that. 

“But you also have to be very clear about how you are going to unwind those restrictions, and what the milestones are going to be for doing that.”

Read more: Easyjet revenue collapses 90 per cent amid newest restrictions

As to the requirement for airlines to make sure that passengers flying at the moment are doing so for a “valid” reason, as Home Secretary Priti Patel announced yesterday, Lundgren said he was in the same position as the rest of us.

“We didn’t have a heads-up on that, so we’ll just have to wait to find out more. But we are already obliged to check negative Covid tests, so that will be further work for us to take on.”

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