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Topline: EasyJet, one of Europe’s largest airlines by passenger numbers, has grounded all flights because of the coronavirus pandemic, in the latest sign of COVID-19’s devastating impact on the airline industry.
- The budget airline said in a statement: “As a result of the unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of national lockdowns across many European countries, easyJet has, today, fully grounded its entire fleet of aircraft.”
- The company’s shares were down more than 5% on Monday morning on the news.
- EasyJet’s grounding follows an earlier decision to halt most flights to Italy around the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, amid lower demand for flights. It has in recent days operated hundreds of rescue flights to repatriate stranded people.
- Some 9,000 members of staff have been invited to volunteer at the new 4,000-bed temporary hospitals in east London, Birmingham and Manchester, and will continue to be paid up to 80% of their salaries through the U.K. government’s job retention rescue package.
- Some of the U.K.’s biggest conference centres have been temporarily repurposed into specialist hospitals to deal with COVID-19 cases. But there are concerns among some healthcare professionals about whether there will be enough new nurses and doctors to staff the NHS Nightingale field hospitals, or whether existing professionals will be spread out more thinly, the Guardian reports.
News peg: Several global airlines have slashed flights amid the coronavirus pandemic, sparked by lower demand for flights to the worst-affected hot spots, and then widespread lockdowns and travel bans affecting travel to China, the European Union and the U.S., among other destinations. Airlines including Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic have asked their staff to take periods of unpaid leave in efforts to cut costs.
Key background: The International Air Transport Association warned earlier this month that global airlines would require some $200 billion in government support to ride out the current crisis. But the U.K. government is reluctant to shell out taxpayer’s cash on safeguarding carriers, unless all commercial options have been exhausted, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said. Meanwhile, U.S. airlines have requested a $50 billion government bailout in the form of loans, grants and tax relief.
Big number: $252 billion. That’s how much IATA estimates passenger revenues will fall by this year, compared with 2019. Some 1.1 million flights have been cancelled until June 30, IATA said.
Tangent: Virgin Atlantic will also ask 4,000 of its employees to step forward as volunteers in a support capacity, and will receive further training before they begin.