EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren called for a UK government plan to lift restrictions on travel as he rejected a suggestion that easyJet is more cautious about a recovery than low-cost rivals Ryanair and Wizz Air.

EasyJet will operate only about 10% of its 2019 schedule in the three months to March, most of it on domestic routes, and Joussen said: “There are tiny volumes [of traffic].”

He insisted: “What is most important now is that the government provides a plan for how we get out of this.

“There is an urgent need for the government to unwind its restrictions if there is a positive continuation of vaccination.”

Speaking at a CAPA Centre for Aviation online summit, Lundgren said: “Travel sentiment depends so much on the daily news flow and the restrictions, [and] the restrictions look very different depending on the jurisdiction.

“It’s confusing for customers and tremendously challenging for operators.”

Asked what kind of recovery he envisages and when, Lundgren said: “There are number of scenarios, but nobody knows.

“This could all change in a few weeks with a successful continuation of the vaccination programme. Then there could be a boom in travel because there is such pent-up demand.”

He insisted: “I’m positive for a strong summer if the vaccination programme is successful [and] if it’s successful against the variants.”

Lundgren said: “The early indicators for summer are of demand for traditional leisure destinations. We know leisure will recover before business travel.

“We could see strong domestic flying. We’re flying up to 10% now and it is primarily domestic in the UK, France and Italy.

“We’ve looked at a number of scenarios and want to wait as long as we can until we look at capacities. The restrictions are key here.”

Lundgren rejected the suggestion that easyJet’s plans were more cautious than those of Wizz and Ryanair which have talked up expansion.

He said: “I don’t think we are more cautious. We just don’t boast when we’re doing such insignificant flying. We heard some of the same talk last summer and it was wildly wrong.

“We only do flying that generates a cash contribution and that tends to make us more accurate [in our forecasts of capacity]. But we have tremendous opportunities.”

Lundgren pointed out easyJet’s network overlaps “2%-3% with Wizz and 14% to 15% with Ryanair”, saying: “Our big overlap is with legacy carriers. There is a big opportunity there. But to talk about that when there is very little flying at all is irrelevant.

“We plan, but we also face reality. We are not cautious. We are prudent in the way we plan.”