By Sarah Young
LONDON (Reuters) - EasyJet urged governments on Thursday to set out a plan for easing COVID-19 travel restrictions as the British airline warned its prospects had worsened for January-March and it could not give forecasts for the key summer season.
Like all airlines, easyJet has been hoping for a bumper summer after almost a year of travel curbs, but the beginning of any recovery continues to be pushed back as new virus variants sweep Europe and countries remain in lockdown.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said on Thursday he could not forecast demand this summer after the company reported an 88% slump in revenue to 165 million pounds ($225 million) for the three months ending Dec. 31.
He called on governments to clarify on how and when travel restrictions would be removed to allow passengers to make bookings, saying easyJet was confident there was pent up demand for holidays.
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"The key thing is really that they have a plan and as soon as possible let people know and how they're going to unwind these things," he told reporters.
Restrictions in Britain, easyJet's home market and its biggest, tightened on Wednesday when the government brought in new measures to crack down on travel, including requiring passengers to justify why they are leaving the country.
Pre-departure COVID-19 testing and quarantine are already in place, in addition to a lockdown that bans holidays.
EasyJet warned it would fly no more than 10% of 2019's capacity in January-March, down from 18% in September-December.
Its shares fell 1.2% to 705 pence in early trading. But Goodbody analysts said the update provided comfort on costs and liquidity.
To cope with the crisis, easyJet has been cutting costs and said it was making good progress, moving UK-based pilots to seasonal contracts, signing new ground handling contracts at major airports and bringing some maintenance in-house.
Its finances were significantly strengthened earlier in January through a $1.87 billion loan, which analysts said removed the risk of a second rights issue for now.
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(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by James Davey and Mark Potter)