Passenger revenues at Easyjet plummeted 90 per cent to £118million at the end of 2020 as the introduction of more severe Covid-19 restrictions grievously hit demand for flights.
Only 23,428 journeys were made with the airline from October to December 2020 compared to almost 140,000 in the same period last year, while its customer numbers plunged 87.1 per cent.
Of the three months, November was by far the worst impacted as countries across Europe, including the UK, France and Germany reintroduced national lockdowns to help stem rising coronavirus infection rates.
EasyJet said summer bookings are ‘currently significantly ahead’ of where they were last year
EasyJet also expects capacity in the first three months of this year will not exceed 10 per cent of the previous year’s schedule because of the harsh curbs on travelling throughout Europe.
However, the group remarked that summer bookings are ‘currently significantly ahead’ of where they were last year, and that it is attracting ‘very positive demand’ for holidays over the next winter.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: ‘Our performance in the period was in line with management expectations, despite more stringent restrictions coming into place.’
Wizz Air also saw a massive fall in business over the quarter, reporting a £102.5million loss, though its passenger and ancillary revenues declined less severely
Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air also saw a massive fall in business over the quarter, reporting a £102.5million loss, though its passenger and ancillary revenues declined less severely, shrinking by 76.5 per cent and 72.9 per cent respectively.
Neither Easyjet nor Wizz Air is providing guidance for the ongoing financial year, because of the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite this, the two airlines are expanding their operations. Easyjet is adding four extra aircraft by the summer, while Wizz Air has opened 50 new routes and began the first flight of its Abu Dhabi subsidiary a fortnight ago.
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Both firms’ announcements today come as Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove refused to say whether the government would be willing to see airlines ‘go bust.’
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘Airlines are a critical part of our broader infrastructure but what I can’t do is say definitively today that an industry or company will receive specific support.’
Earlier this month, EasyJet secured a £1.4billion state-backed bailout to help ease the financial problems the coronavirus pandemic has caused the business.
The Luton-based air carrier has stated that customers can obtain cash refunds if government restrictions – such as a ban on leisure trips – mean they cannot travel, even if their flight goes ahead.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4 Today’s programme, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove (above) refused to say whether the government would be willing to see airlines ‘go bust’
The airline did not provide guidance on its expectations for this summer, but said it surveyed 5,000 European consumers earlier this month which revealed that 65 per cent of people plan to make a reservation this year.
Under the law, people cannot go overseas for leisure purposes, but can for work reasons, medical appointments, or education. Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that those travelling abroad will soon have to declare their reasons for doing so.
Airlines and travel operators have expressed concern though over whether they have the sole ability to decide if a person’s reasons for journeying overseas are legitimate.
Those coming from abroad to the UK must also provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of their flight’s departure, and have to self-isolate for ten days on arrival.
Lundgren added that the ‘key to unlocking travel is going to be the vaccination programmes combined with governments progressively removing restrictions when it is safe to.
‘And, in the meantime, our flexible industry-leading policies mean that customers can make plans and book with confidence.’
Easyjet’s shares ended trading up 4.6 per cent to 746.6p, while Wizz Air’s share price rose 4.7 per cent to £44.02.
Passengers take coronavirus tests upon arrival at Heathrow airport