EasyJet grounds entire fleet - meaning no commercial flights in or out of Belfast International
EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning there are no commerical flights scheduled in or out of Belfast International Airport.
The Luton-based carrier said parking all 344 of its planes “removes significant cost” as the aviation industry struggles to cope with a collapse in demand caused by the outbreak of the virus.
Ryan McAleer, business correspondent of The Irish News, said that it now appears that the only remaining commercial flights in or out of Northern Ireland are from Belfast City to Heathrow and Derry to London Southend.
The move comes as Scottish regional airline Loganair said it expects to ask the Government for a bailout to cope with the impact of the pandemic.
EasyJet insisted it “maintains a strong balance sheet” and revealed it is in “ongoing discussions with liquidity providers”.
The airline also announced that it has reached an agreement with the Unite union on furlough arrangements for its cabin crew.
EasyJet's decision to ground its entire fleet means there are no commercial flights scheduled in or out of Belfast Intl Airport (cargo only). The only remaining commercial flights in or out of NI appear to be Belfast City to Heathrow and City of Derry to London Southend.— Ryan McAleer (@RyanMcAleerbiz) March 30, 2020
The deal will be effective from Wednesday for a two-month period and means cabin crew will be paid 80% of their average pay through the Government job retention scheme.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “I am extremely proud of the way in which people across easyJet have given their absolute best at such a challenging time, including so many crew who have volunteered to operate rescue flights to bring our customers home.
“We are working tirelessly to ensure that easyJet continues to be well positioned to overcome the challenges of coronavirus.”
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet, is threatening to seek the removal of board members unless the airline withdraws from a contract with Airbus to provide 107 aircraft which he said will cost £4.5 billion.
The billionaire and his family are the largest single shareholders in the carrier with a 34% stake.
He described the Airbus deal as “simply shareholder value destroying”.
He added that unless his concerns are addressed by noon on Wednesday, he will call for extraordinary general meetings every seven weeks and attempt to remove a non-executive director on each occasion.
In response to the letter, easyJet said it is “working with suppliers to defer and reduce payments where possible including on aircraft expenditure”.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said the Covid-19 pandemic has “had an enormous effect on all UK airlines”.
He went on: “The Government has made it clear that it is open to requests for support from individual airlines and, whilst Loganair has not yet taken up this invite, we fully expect to join other UK airlines in doing so in the coming days.”
Mr Hinkles later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the key issue is “about actually getting rid of payments” rather than deferring costs.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the aviation industry last week that he will not create a specific support package for it, but the Government is prepared to enter into negotiations with individual firms once they had “exhausted other options” such as raising cash from existing investors.
Virgin Atlantic had previously urged the Government to offer carriers emergency credit facilities worth up to £7.5 billion.