EasyJet boss condemns authorities recommendation to not guide holidays

The head of the UK’s largest low-cost airline has condemned ministers who urged travelers not to book summer holidays.

Johan Lundgren, managing director of easyJet, said politicians should instead have advised potential vacationers to “check the operators’ cancellation policies”.

Several senior British politicians, as well as Scotland’s First Minister, have warned against committing to summer vacation plans.

Vaccination Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday: “I think it is far too early.”

The next day, Nicola Sturgeon said, “You shouldn’t book a vacation overseas.”

However, easyJet’s vacation operations, as well as other tour operators like Jet2 and Tui, offer full cash refunds for trips that cannot be made due to government restrictions.

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Mr. Lundgren said, “I sent a note [to the government] right away. A better answer is to look at the cancellation policy. “

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The easyJet boss called for an early review of the travel restrictions and said: “We know that the quarantine is the biggest obstacle to booking.”

Interior Minister Priti Patel confirmed on Wednesday that the government would demand hotel quarantine for all arrivals from Portugal and 29 other countries at the passenger’s expense.

In addition, airlines need to check the reasons for UK passengers flying out of the UK. They are fined for not preventing people from going on vacation.

Mr Lundgren told The Independent that the measure “adds another level of complexity for people at the airport”.

EasyJet reported on the results for October through December 2020: “Restrictions and the ongoing uncertainty about their future distance are the main reason for the lower customer demand.”

However, the airline added, “Subject to continued advances in vaccinations and the future relaxation of government travel restrictions across Europe, we expect the pent-up demand for travel to be released.”

In the first quarter of fiscal 2021, easyJet only flew 13 percent of passengers in 2019.

At 18 percent, capacity was on a par with the previous year, which means that the occupancy rate – the proportion of occupied seats – fell from 91 percent to 66 percent. The most recent figure is consistent with the effect that the center seats are not occupied, even though this was not an easyJet policy.

The airline expects it won’t fly more than a tenth of last year’s passenger numbers in the first three months of 2021, as travel restrictions remain in place.

However, EasyJet is actually growing at its main base, Gatwick Airport, and will be operating a record-breaking 71 aircraft there this summer. The slot portfolio at Sussex Airport was expanded with the purchase of part of the Norwegian stake that closed its transatlantic network from Gatwick.

Currently, a web of restrictions prevents any meaningful vacation travel, but Mr. Lundgren added, “The cutbacks on older airlines at major airports offer easyJet additional opportunities.”

The airline has completed the sale and leaseback of 32 aircraft and raised more than $ 1 billion (£ 779 million) in cash. However, EasyJet retains ownership of more than half of its fleet.

No further sale and leaseback transactions are currently expected.

The company declined to provide financial projections for the remainder of the year, saying, “Given the ongoing short-term uncertainty, it would not be appropriate at this stage to provide further financial projections for fiscal 2021.”

“Customers book at a later point in time and visibility remains limited.”

But Mr Lundgren said, “The key to opening up travel will be the vaccination programs, combined with governments gradually lifting restrictions when it is safe to do so.”

“Short-haul leisure will return first.”

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