EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren has criticised chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest Covid-19 support measures for failing to include any specific measures for aviation.
Sunak announced a range of new measures for this winter in the House of Commons on Thursday (24 September) including a less generous replacement for the furlough scheme that ends next month.
Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, said it was “positive” that the government was offering “some type of support”, but it was “disappointing” that Sunak had failed to take targeted action, such as temporarily abolishing APD (Air Passenger Duty) or air traffic control (ATC) charges.
“It’s disappointing there was nothing specific to the sector that we’ve been calling for: the removal of APD and ATC charges, there was nothing on that,” said Lundgren during the World Aviation Festival Virtual conference.
“It’s too little and very late in the day. We would like to see a generous support package for the industry, a much more refined quarantine system and make sure [airport] testing is introduced to bring back confidence for people to fly.”
Lundgren said that while the airline “was still going through the detail” of Sunak’s new plans, he could “not rule out” further moves including potential job losses this winter.
“I fear this is not enough unless other measures are taken,” he added. “I cannot rule out other actions with so much uncertainty out there – that’s the unfortunate reality.
“Government input and contribution can be massively helpful. I’m not against support from the government.”
Despite the current dire situation for the industry, Lundgren said there was still “underlying demand for flying”.
“People want to travel – it’s government-associated policy that restricts travel and causes what we’re seeing right now,” he added.
“I would ask the government: what’s the plan for the UK aviation sector? I fear that unless there’s support it will fall behind other countries – that cannot be in the interest of the UK government.”
He added that the creation of a Covid-19 vaccine would only be “one step along the road” to recovery from the pandemic.
“You need a refined quarantine system that’s more targeted with a regional approach, and have testing in place,” he said.
“It’s very unclear when a vaccine is going to happen. There’s not one magical solution that’s going to resolve it.”
Lundgren insisted that airlines and passengers should not have to pay for airport testing and said it should be part of the government’s overall testing programme.