EasyJet has warned it expects to operate a weaker flight programme than hoped for in the coming months because of a series of coronavirus pressures.
The no-frills airline said it had to focus on “profitable flying” as the wider industry bids to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown that has resulted in thousands of job losses to date.
The company called on the government to implement targeted support for the sector through measures including Air Passenger Duty (APD) cuts and “more predictable” quarantine operation following customer chaos to beat implementation deadlines.
In its statement to the City, easyJet said it was clear that passenger confidence had taken a hit.
It also cited evolving pandemic-related restrictions across Europe.
The airline said: “In response to this reduced demand for travel… easyJet now expects to fly slightly less than the 40% of planned capacity for Q4 2020 which was highlighted at our Q3 trading update.
“This is the result of continued schedule thinning as we continue to focus on profitable flying.”
Shares – still down by more than 50% in the year to date following a coronavirus crash for values – fell by a further 4% in early trading.
EasyJet released its statement hours after the government added seven Greek islands to England’s quarantine list.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also confirmed a shift in the current whole-country approach to the coronavirus quarantine, saying individual islands will be able to be treated differently.
But the air travel sector has urged ministers to go further, with Heathrow championing a passenger testing regime that it argues could cut by half the current 14-day period of enforced isolation.
The chief executive of easyJet, Johan Lundgren, said: “We know our customers are as frustrated as we are with the unpredictable travel and quarantine restrictions.
“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.
“It is difficult to overstate the impact that the pandemic and associated government policies has had on the whole industry.
“We again call on the government to provide sector specific support for aviation which needs to take the form of a broad package of measures including the removal of APD for at least 12 months, the alleviation of ATC (Air Traffic Control) charges along with continuation of the slot rule waiver.
“These steps will support the retention of skills in the sector – all of which would support jobs and promote connectivity.”