EasyJet to leave middle seats empty once flights resume
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Once the coronavirus crisis has passed, you won’t have to dread a middle seat neighbour on your next EasyJet flight. The low-cost giant said that it will keep middle seats open in the direct aftermath of coronavirus in order to abide by social distancing measures.
EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said that once lockdown restrictions have been lifted and people return to the skies, the airline expects a continued drop in passenger demand. As such, Lundgren said EasyJet will offer an open middle seat option.
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“Our assumption is that load factors will not be back to normal early on, which means that we will have the opportunity for a middle-seat option, but I’m talking about this as an initial phase and nobody knows for how long that phase will be”, Lundgren said. “That is something that we will do because I think that is something that the customers would like to see”.
Fellow low-cost CEO Michael O’Leary of Ryanair dismissed the open middle seat option, saying it would be a “hopelessly ineffective” way for passengers to keep safe while also being a costly measure for the airline’s bottom line.
At the end of March, EasyJet grounded its entire commercial operation, with no planned date to resume operations.
EasyJet said that its winter bookings were “well ahead” of those in the same year prior, as the carrier released its schedule earlier than usual and as customers rebooked travel that was cancelled due to coronavirus. The carrier is now expecting a first-half loss of between £185 million and £205 million, below its forecasted loss of £275 million.
The carrier has taken on several cost-cutting measures, such as furloughing employees, offering unpaid leave and deferring the delivery of 24 new aircraft from Airbus. The latter of which was part of the target of EasyJet founder Stelio Haji-Ioannou, who said earlier this month that the airline would run out of money by August if it didn’t scrap its outstanding Airbus order.
According to the BBC, EasyJet has a cash balance of around £3.3 billion, enough to “remain liquid” should it have to keep its aircraft grounded for nine months.
In the name of social distancing, other airlines around the world have taken to keeping a middle seat open on flights that are still operating. Last week, Delta Air Lines announced that it would be blocking middle seats on flights.
Featured photo by Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images.
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