British Airways and easyJet have both warned of aircraft grounding on an unprecedented scale as the coronavirus pandemic sets in across Europe.
easyJet, Europe’s fourth-largest airline, joined Virgin Atlantic in calling for government help as countries around the globe close their borders to foreign visitors and travel plans are cancelled.
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“European aviation faces a precarious future and there is no guarantee that the European airlines, along with all the benefits it brings for people, the economy and business, will survive what could be a long-term travel freeze and the risks of a slow recovery,” said easyJet’s CEO, Johan Lundgren in a statement on the company’s website.
“Whether it does or not will depend significantly on European airlines maintaining access to liquidity, including that enabled by governments across Europe.”
At the same time, the CEO of British Airways’ parent company IAG, Willie Walsh, deferred his retirement to help deal with the crisis. He told Reuters that airlines should be looking to help themselves, before making demands on already stretched global governments.
“I think individual airlines have been approaching governments looking for state aid. We have not done so,” he told Reuters, adding that the group would however accept any general facilities provided to all companies which would benefit employees.
easyJet lost 18 per cent in morning trading, and IAG was down 23 per cent.