The coronavirus pandemic has left easyJet ‘hanging by a thread’ and at risk of bankruptcy without a summer resurgence in passenger numbers, a union official told pilots during discussions of potential layoffs.
In a conference call with staff, a recording of which was passed on to the Guardian, pilots’ union official Martin Entwisle said: “If easyJet isn’t having a good summer and making money there next summer, I suspect none of us will have a job. this time next year. “
He said he was speaking following a briefing with the company’s chief financial officer Andrew Findlay, union officials and other members of the management team.
Entwisle told pilots Findlay warned the company’s situation was “even worse than their worst fears.”
“The simplest way to put it is: the business is hanging by a thread.”
EasyJet vigorously denied Entwisle’s qualification of its discussion with Findlay, saying it was not representative of the discussion.
“The recording does not reflect what easyJet or its chief financial officer said,” the company told The Guardian in a statement.
“We have made it clear that the entire industry has been affected by the pandemic, but easyJet has taken a cautious approach to capacity and the right actions to preserving cash flow.
“The airline continues to review all liquidity options, but no decision has been made.
“Winter flights are still significantly lower than summer and easyJet will continue its cautious and dynamic approach to capacity during the winter.
“No decision has been made and we will update the market in due course.
“As we said in our recent trade update, evolving restrictions and quarantine requirements continue to affect consumer confidence in booking travel. We therefore continue to ask the UK government for sector support.
The recording is believed to have been taken while easyJet was negotiating with pilots over possible layoffs, meaning union officials had reason to stress the seriousness of the situation to ensure pilots agreed a deal.
The pilots and management of EasyJet have since achieved a breakthrough in the negotiations, which means that no pilot will necessarily be fired. In June, easyJet’s estimate was that 727 pilots were at risk.
While easyJet has vehemently denied that Entwisle’s comments represent the airline’s true situation, its comments to the pilots underscore the desperate situation airlines such as easyJet have found themselves in due to the pandemic.
Entwistle said, “We fly planes with 22 passengers on board, pissing money overboard and it will continue that way through the winter.”
“We’re in the creek of shit. We need to save money and move this business forward. “
He said the airline had previously sold planes and leased them to raise funds and would continue to do so.
Entwisle added that the company will receive less money than it hoped next summer as many people whose flights have been canceled have exchanged their tickets for vouchers and will not pay for further travel.
In a statement on its agreement with the pilots, easyJet said it “worked constructively in consultation with [pilots’ union] Balpa, aimed at minimizing mandatory layoffs despite the closure of three of our UK bases.
“We worked closely with the union to find alternative options for pilots who were at risk of layoff and therefore we are happy to confirm that we were able to offer part-time and seasonal contracts as well as relocation. in our other bases to all the pilots of the closing bases, in addition to accepting 60 requests for voluntary dismissal.
“We look forward to receiving the last signed contracts in the next few days and hope that means that when the process is complete, there should no longer be a need for mandatory layoffs.”