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EasyJet eases financial pressure as Christmas hit looms

EasyJet has announced a boost to its coronavirus-hit finances – while revealing expectations of further cuts to services in the current Christmas quarter.

The low-cost carrier said renewed COVID-19 lockdowns in key markets of England, France and Germany had forced it to scale back expectations for flight schedules to 20% from 25% until the end of the year.

But the company insisted that should it witness a shift in demand, it could act to meet any surge in bookings.

File photo dated 04/10/17 of a Ryanair plane. Ryanair said it suffered the "most challenging" quarter in its 35-year history as it reported a loss of 185 million euro (..168 million). PA Photo. Issue date: Monday July 27, 2020. The low-cost airline, like its competitors, was forced to ground its fleet as Covid-19 wreaked havoc on timetables with travel bans and lockdowns introduced worldwide. See PA story CITY Ryanair. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Image: Ryanair is planning to run 40% of its flight capacity during the winter season

“We remain focused on cash generative flying over the winter season in order to minimise losses during the first half and retain the flexibility to ramp capacity back up quickly when we see demand return,” easyJet said.

The airline, whose finances are under pressure due to the virus crisis disruption in the year to date, said additional sale and leaseback deals of its aircraft had raised £131m in cash – taking the total to date above £1bn.

It said the latest deal, covering 11 planes, meant that it now only fully-owned 41% of its fleet and a buoyant market meant that more such deals could be done.

The airline, like rivals, is scrambling to save cash at a time when the sector has been cutting jobs at a furious rate as ambitions are curtailed by continuing restrictions to curtail the disease.

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Sky News revealed last month how easyJet had approached the government to warn it may need to access further financial state aid after taking £600m via the Bank of England’s Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility in the spring.

It has also raised more than £400m from shareholders.

The air travel sector has pleaded for additional government help through an airport testing regime to help bolster passenger confidence and erase the need for quarantine restrictions.

EasyJet’s capacity expectation of 20% is half that of rival Ryanair, which is expecting to fly 40% of usual services in the current winter season.

Sky News also revealed, on Thursday, that British Airways had scaled back its November flights and was to furlough more workers because of England’s lockdown – stopping operations at Gatwick completely.

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