EasyJet’s chief executive has said the company would not hesitate to alert authorities and “provide evidence” should it suspect a “distortion of competition” via government funding for other airlines.
Asked on a financial results call this morning whether he believed there had been a “European distortion of competition”, with certain airlines receiving large government funding packages, Johan Lundgren said: “It’s true to say we have received significantly less in terms of direct support from the governments if you compare it to some of the other airlines and competitors out there in Europe. There has been billions poured into them.
“I completely understand why governments would want to support the airline and aviation industry – I’m all for that. I believe it’s the right thing to do. The crisis has gone way beyond what you can expect industries to deal with.
“But this point remains an important one – how will those funds be used? If the funds are there to support struggling airlines to survive, you can discuss the pros and cons about that.
“But if the funds are there in order to take market share, that will ultimately even further distort the competition – then it’s a huge problem. We’re going to have big difficulties clearly with accepting that.
“I’m mindful of the fact that the contribution and the support that is being given is distributed more evenly than what we’re seeing today.”
Lundgren added, though, that “we were seeing this” even before the pandemic.
“Certain governments were giving support and contributions to airlines that without that wouldn’t have been able to survive,” he said.
“That remains to be seen. My major concern is about it being distributed so unevenly.
Asked which countries apart from the UK easyJet was discussing emergency aid with, Lundgren said: “We’re discussing with governments in a number of the markets where we’re operating – mostly in the form of furlough. These are ongoing discussion. In a number of our core markets we are one of the leading airlines. We think it’s fair we are recognised in terms of what we represent and contribution, so we are not being disadvantaged.”
Lundgren added: “We are mindful to make sure we are being recognised for the value that we provide and we would get help that doesn’t put us at a disadvantage.
“That’s something we’re keeping a very close eye on, because of the amount that’s being given to some of our competitors.
“We want to make sure all can see that’s not being used in a way that distorts competition, because that is not at all good from a customer perspective.
“We will monitor and evaluate that and make sure that all the relevant authorities are up to date on what’s going on, and we will provide evidence if we can see that that is taking place.”