A slow return to flying should be expected when travel restrictions are lifted, easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren has warned.
The easyJet boss forecast restrictions on domestic flying would be lifted first, but with social distancing measures in place at airports and on flights for an unspecified time.
Lundgren said: “We don’t know when flying will resume again. Nobody can tell what the level of demand will be when this comes back.
“We expect to come back in a slow way. We are planning scenarios. We need to be flexible in terms of how demand will be.”
Speaking as he reported half year results to the end of March, Lundgren said: “It is all about the welfare of our customers and crew.
“Our assumption is load factors will not get back to normal in the initial phase, but we are talking about the initial phase.
“We are looking at measures we can take, for example, leaving the middle seat empty, disinfecting aircraft.
“We have not said we expect flying at this time or that date. Nobody knows. Hopefully the restrictions will be relaxed, then lifted.”
He suggested countries “will lift their domestic flying restrictions first. Then there will be arrangements between countries to lift restrictions. Then we will see what the demand is.”
Lundgren insisted: “After the lockdown there will be a lot of people who want to go out and have a holiday. But it all depends on the restrictions.
“At some point demand will be where it was. Nobody knows when, but I’m sure demand will be there.”
He added: “We are working very closely with [European aviation safety agency] EASA.
“We will clearly look to have the middle seats empty at the start. Customers will want to see that particularly in the start-up period.
“Customers will go through a process in their own minds as they see a relaxation and going on holiday will be on their minds again.
“As we start flying it’s safe to assume we will see load factors not at normal levels. There won’t be the need for normal turnarounds and that will help manage social distancing.”
Lundgren hailed “a very strong performance prior to the impact of the coronavirus” in the half-year results, noting the loss for the six months to March of £185 million to £205 million was “a significant improvement” on the previous year.
He reported: “We are in a position to remain cash positive even if grounded for nine months.”