EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the no-frills carrier said it completed its final rescue flight on Sunday and was now about to place its cabin crew on a two-month leave of absence.
The airline said: 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.
Over recent days easyJet has been helping to repatriate customers, having operated more than 650 rescue flights to date, returning home more than 45,000 customers.
The last of these rescue flights were operated on Sunday March 29. We will continue to work with government bodies to operate additional rescue flights as requested.
At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights. We will continuously evaluate the situation based on regulations and demand, and will update the market when we have a view.
Flight numbers have fallen to a trickle globally as international air travel responds to a collapse in demand and restrictions on movement – prompting requests for government support to secure the industry’s future prospects.
The UK government has ruled out a support package but promised to work with individual airlines should they seek help.
Scottish regional airline, Loganair, has indicated it will do just that.
EasyJet’s decision means it has parked all its 344 aircraft but has made planes available for additional support work should the government request help.
The company has seen the value of its shares dive by almost 60% in the year to date while Sky News revealed on Sunday that its founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, was threatening to seek the removal of most of its board members unless it cancelled a £4.5bn aircraft order with Airbus.
EasyJet responded by saying it was working with suppliers to defer and reduce payments where possible including on aircraft expenditure.
It also said on Monday that the decision to ground its planes removes significant cost – adding that the group maintains a strong balance sheet.
The airline said it had worked collaboratively with the Unite union to reach the deal over cabin crew.
The arrangement, effective from Wednesday, will see staff paid 80% of their average wage through the government’s job
retention scheme for two months.
EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic cabin crew have reacted to the slowdown in demand of recent weeks by volunteering to help the NHS at the Nightingale field hospitals being built.
It means they have, potentially, 13,000 people between them available.
Shares were down by more than 9% at one stage in early Monday deals.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: I am extremely proud of the way in which people across easyJet have given their absolute best at such a challenging time, including so many crew who have volunteered to operate rescue flights to bring our customers home.
We are working tirelessly to ensure that easyJet continues to be well positioned to overcome the challenges of coronavirus.