aviation industry

UK lockdowns force British Airways, EasyJet to review flying plans

Reuters
UK lockdowns force British Airways, EasyJet to review flying plans

BRITISH AIRWAYS. British Airways planes are seen at the Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, July 17, 2020.

File photo by Hannah McKay/Reuters

The new lockdown in England stops most people from traveling abroad, making more cuts likely, and putting airline finances under renewed pressure

United Kingdom-based airlines British Airways and EasyJet said they were reviewing their plans in response to new national COVID-19 lockdowns, with reductions to already low levels of flying almost certain.

Restrictions on travel due to the pandemic, and particularly a halt by some countries to passenger traffic from Britain due to an outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus, means that there are only a fraction of flights currently operating.

But the new lockdown in England stops most people from traveling abroad, making more cuts likely, and putting airline finances under renewed pressure as carriers had hoped for a recovery in travel by the spring.

Goodbody analysts said the lockdown would wipe out income from the school half-term holiday in February, usually a strong travel period, and risked impacting bookings for Easter and summer.

To survive this long, airlines have already had to cut thousands of staff and raise new debt and equity. Last year, British Airways said it needed to axe 13,000 staff, while EasyJet went ahead with 4,500 job cuts.

In response to the new lockdown, EasyJet, which in December had been flying about 20% of its 2019 capacity, once again called for more government help for aviation.

“Given the ongoing impact of the pandemic on travel, we continue to call for sector specific support such as has been provided to hospitality,” the airline said in its statement.

Travel industry bodies Airlines UK and the Airport Operators Association have previously called on Britain to waive the air passenger duty tax among other measures.

Before the pandemic, Britain had a thriving aviation sector. Air transport and related supply chain activity plus tourist arrivals supported 1.6 million jobs and accounted for 4.5% of UK gross domestic product, according to an International Air Transport Association study.

British Airways, owned by IAG, said on Tuesday, January 5, that its focus was on keeping some air links open to transport vital goods.

Shares in EasyJet traded down 1%, while IAG was up 1% at 1100 GMT. – Rappler.com