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EasyJet axes almost a third of staff on virus fallout

British no-frills airline EasyJet said Thursday that it will axe up to 4,500 jobs, or almost a third of its workforce, as coronavirus ravages demand and grounds global air travel.

"We are planning to reduce the size of our fleet and to optimise the network and our bases. As a result, we anticipate reducing staff numbers by up to 30 percent across the business and we will continue to remove cost and non-critical expenditure at every level," said Chief Executive Johan Lundgren in a statement.

The job cuts will impact up to 4,500 of the carrier's 15,000 staff, a spokesman told AFP. A consultation process will be launched in the coming days.

The COVID-19 outbreak has devastated the global aviation sector, with passenger numbers slumping during lockdown measures as air travel demand evaporates.

EasyJet follows competitors British Airways, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic, which have all slashed staff numbers to save costs.

"We realise that these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long-term," added Lundgren. 

"We remain focused on doing what is right for the company and its long-term health and success, following the swift action we have taken over the last three months to meet the challenges of the virus."

EasyJet had grounded its entire fleet at the end of March, and currently plans to resume to the skies in mid-June with a limited number of flights.

"Although we will restart flying on 15 June, we expect demand to build slowly, only returning to 2019 levels in about three years' time," added Lundgren.

"We want to ensure that we emerge from the pandemic an even more competitive business than before, so that EasyJet can thrive in the future."

Travellers arriving in Britain will meanwhile face 14 days in quarantine from next month to prevent a second coronavirus outbreak.

The pandemic has battered the air transport sector by all but grounding planes, resulting in layoffs, bankruptcies and rescue plans worldwide -- although Lufthansa is wavering over a nine-billion-euro ($9.9 billion) German state lifeline.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecast this week that global airlines will lose some $314 billion (286 billion euros) in 2020 revenues on the back of coronavirus.

EasyJet added Thursday that it would not provide any outlook as a result of the turmoil.

"At this stage, given the level of continued uncertainty, it is not possible to provide financial guidance for the remainder of the 2020 financial year.

"However, as shown in this release, we continue to take every step necessary to reduce cost, conserve cash burn, enhance liquidity, protect the business and ensure it is best positioned on our return to flying."

Topics: EasyJet , COVID-19 , International Air Transport Association , Johan Lundgren
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