EasyJet has revealed it has raised sufficient cash reserves to guard against a "prolonged grounding" of up to nine months.
The airline on Thursday (16 April) confirmed it had agreed a further two loans worth in the region of £400 million, secured against aircraft assets, and anticipates raising a further £400 million to £550 million by selling and leasing back a number of aircraft.
This comes in addition to it having, earlier this month, secured £600 million from the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, and drawing down $500 million from an existing credit facility.
In total, easyJet says its notional cash balance currently stands at around £3.3 billion.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said easyJet’s "decisive action" would ensure the airline was "well positioned to endure a prolonged grounding".
EasyJet believes it would use around £1.2 billion cash in the event of a three-month grounding; £2.2billion after six months; and £3 billion after nine months.
This is based on the ratio of passengers booked on cancelled flights choosing refunds instead of non-cash alternatives, such as vouchers or a later flight, continuing at its current rate of "more than half"; staff remaining on furlough until the end of May; no material changes to card acquirer arrangements, forex or fuel rates; and minimal revenue from new bookings.
However, easyJet said in a half-year trading update, issued on Thursday, it would "continue to consider further liquidity and funding options".
These could include deferring maintenance spending; seeking additional government support with regards to furlough and tax relief; and making further "operational and organisational" changes.
EasyJet expects to post a first-half headline loss before tax for the six months to 31 March in the range of £185 million to £205 million, and a reported loss in the range of £360 million to £380 million once the impact, forecast to be in the region of £175 million to £185 million, of "over-hedging fuel and forex" is taken into account.
The airline will detail its half-year results on 30 June. It has declined to give guidance for its full financial year through 30 September.
"We remain focused on doing what is right for the company for its long term health and to ensure we are in a good position to resume flying when the pandemic is over," said Lundgren.
"While the vast majority of our people are not able to work at this time, there is a small number working tirelessly to help our customers, and to plan for our return to the skies, whenever that might be."
EasyJet said while there could yet be "no certainty" over the date when commercial flights will resume, it could restart flying with as little as "two weeks’ notice".
However, while its fleet was fully grounded on 30 March, easyJet released its winter 2020/21 seats early to allow travellers to plan ahead, and says winter bookings – including customers who have rebooked flights impacted by Covid-19 – are well ahead of the equivalent point last year".
Lundgren added first-half trading was "very strong" prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, and stressed in the space of around seven weeks, the airline had been able to put itself on secure footing for the challenges ahead.
These steps include launching a cost-cutting initiative and reducing "cash burn"; grounding easyJet’s entire fleet; deferring delivery of 24 aircraft and maintaining flexibility in regards to its fleet; and executing a funding programme to secure in excess of £2 billion in new cash funding.
EasyJet has the option to reduce its fleet by up to a sixth over the next three years to 281 by the end of its 2023 financial year through 30 September 2023, the trading update also revealed.