EasyJet grounds entire fleet of planes because of coronavirus crisis

EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft for at least two months in response to the destruction of demand for air travel by the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget airline said it could not put a firm date on restarting commercial flights and 4,000 of its 9,000 UK staff will be furloughed initially for two months from 1 April.

Cabin crews drafted in to help at new coronavirus hospitals

The global airline industry is caught up in an unprecedented crisis, with companies laying off workers by the thousand, on the back of strict travel restrictions across most of the main air travel markets.

The almost total loss of revenues threatens the survival of many airlines. Loganair, the Scottish regional carrier, on Monday said it would be seeking government assistance beyond that offered to all British companies, despite the government’s insistence so far that it would not offer an industry-wide bailout.

UK government support for workers and businesses during the coronavirus crisis

Direct cash grants for self-employed people, worth 80% of average profits, up to £2,500 a month. There are similar wage subsidies for employees.

Government to back £330bn of loans to support businesses through a Bank of England scheme for big firms. There are loans of up to £5m with no interest for six months for smaller companies.

Taxes levied on commercial premises will be abolished this year for all retailers, leisure outlets and hospitality sector firms.

Britain’s smallest 700,000 businesses eligible for cash grants of £10,000. Small retailers, leisure and hospitality firms can get bigger grants of £25,000.

Government to increase value of universal credit and tax credits by £1,000 a year, as well as widening eligibility for these benefits.

Statutory sick pay to be made available from day one, rather than day four, of absence from work, although ministers have been criticised for not increasing the level of sick pay above £94.25 a week. Small firms can claim for state refunds on sick pay bills.

Local authorities to get a £500m hardship fund to provide people with council tax payment relief.

Mortgage and rental holidays available for up to three months.

Loganair’s chief executive, Jonathan Hinkles, told BBC radio: “I do think, that like the vast majority of UK airlines, we will be going back to take up that invite for further conversation with the Treasury in the coming days because we have to.”

Qatar Airways on Sunday said that it would eventually need state aid, despite being one of the few global airlines continuing to run commercial scheduled flights, mainly to allow people to return home.

EasyJet had focused on repatriating customers in recent days after travel restrictions came into force across most of its main markets. However, the last of 650 repatriation flights ended on Sunday.

Grounding the fleet removes “significant cost”, easyJet said. The move also means that furloughed staff in the UK will be paid 80% of their salaries through the government’s job retention scheme. There were separate arrangements with governments in other countries where easyJet staff are based, a spokeswoman said.

Many of the staff furloughed by easyJet, as well as Virgin Atlantic, will be drafted in to help in temporary “Nightingale” hospitals built to cope with a wave of thousands of expected coronavirus patients.

EasyJet has invited staff to volunteer for further training before helping out at the critical care field hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester, while Virgin will contact 4,000 of its staff who may have the relevant skills needed to provide help.

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