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EasyJet blames Greek island quarantines for flight cancellations

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
A large number of easyJet aircrafts are parked on the tarmac of the Geneve Aeroport, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 30, 2020. EasyJet, a British low-cost airline, on 30 March 2020 said it is ground its entire fleet of more than 300 planes amid ongoing Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
EasyJet warned it is likely to fly fewer passengers than expected in the coming months, as a result of the government’s latest quarantine measures in Greece. Photo: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

The chief executive of easyJet (EZJ.L) has hit out at the UK government’s handling of COVID-19 travel restrictions, saying he is “frustrated” with the “unpredictable” quarantine measures being announced by Downing Street.

It came as the budget airline announced it would cancel flights in response to the latest UK quarantine measures imposed on seven Greek islands.

UK transport minister Grant Shapps said on Monday afternoon that islands including Crete, Santorini, and Zante were being taken off the safe travel list, meaning travellers to those destinations will now have to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the UK.

Watch: Seven Greek islands added to quarantine list as rule change revealed

“We know our customers are as frustrated as we are with the unpredictable travel and quarantine restrictions,” easyJet chief executive John Lundgren said in a statement on Tuesday.

EasyJet warned it is now likely to fly fewer passengers than expected in the coming months, as a direct result of the government’s latest quarantine measures in Greece. Its flight schedule will be “thinned out” in response.

READ MORE: EasyJet slashes up to 4,500 staff in 'knee-jerk' job cuts

“We called on the government to opt for a targeted, regionalised and more predictable and structured system of quarantine many weeks ago so customers could make travel plans with confidence,” Lundgren said.

"It is difficult to overstate the impact that the pandemic and associated government policies has had on the whole industry.”

EasyJet expects to fly less than 40% of its total capacity in the fourth quarter of its financial year, which is below guidance given at the start of August. EasyJet said it would not give investors any guidance on its financial performance for the rest of this year and next, blaming “the lack of visibility and the continued level of uncertainty.”

Lundgren urged the government to do more to support the ailing aviation sector, which has already seen tens of thousands of job cuts. He called for a 12 month suspension of air passenger duty (a tax on passengers), grant relief on air traffic control charges, and to continue to waive slot rules, which punish airlines if they do not fly planes during allotted times at airports.

READ MORE: Thomas Cook could be relaunched 'within days'

“These steps will support the retention of skills in the sector — all of which would support jobs and promote connectivity,” Lundgren said.

EasyJet announced plans to cut up to 4,500 jobs in May in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The company said on Tuesday it would continue to “drive down” costs across the business and promised to regularly “assess any further funding opportunities.”

Shares in the company fell 6% in early trade in London.

EasyJet's shares slumped in response to its latest update. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK
EasyJet's shares slumped in response to its latest update. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK