The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has strenuously rejected fears about easyJet’s financial health, after a union rep was recorded saying the the airline is“hanging by a thread”.
In a leaked recording obtained by BBC News, Martin Entwisle said the company was in a “really, really dire situation”.
During a presentation to Balpa members, Mr Entwisle said that after a meeting with airline's chief financial officer (CFO), Andrew Findlay, he felt: “The situation is dire.
“I think the easiest way to put it is that the company is hanging by a thread.
“If we don't have a good summer next summer and make a considerable amount of money, we really are going to be out of a job.”
But the general secretary of Balpa, Brian Strutton, told The Independent: “The crisis in aviation is well known and something we have been highlighting for months.
“A local rep was recorded giving his own impression of some of the difficulties that easyJet – like all airlines – are facing.
“But Balpa has confidence in easyJet's business plan to get through this winter period and help power the UK's economic recovery in the coming months.”
The story broke hours after Balpa and easyJet announced an agreement that aims to avoid any compulsory job cuts for pilots. While 60 flight crew will take voluntary redundancy, 1,500 have accepted part-time working to protect colleagues’ jobs.
An easyJet spokesperson said: “The recording does not reflect what easyJet or its CFO said. We have been clear the whole industry has been impacted by the pandemic, however easyJet has taken a prudent approach to capacity and the right actions on cash preservation. The airline continues to keep all liquidity options under review, but no decisions have been taken.
“As we said at our recent trading update, changing restrictions and quarantine requirements continue to impact consumer confidence to book travel so we continue to call on the UK government for sector specific support.”
A government spokesperson said: “Our priority has always been to protect people’s health and the NHS.
“However, we have also provided unprecedented support to the aviation industry and took early action on airport slots, loans, tax deferrals, and paying people’s wages through the furlough scheme.”
Rumours about the financial health of airlines can be damaging, dampening confidence in prospective travellers – but usually they are started by rivals.
Nevertheless, Mr Entwisle’s remarks about the coming winter reflect deep concern in the entire UK aviation industry.
With Britain’s quarantine restrictions discouraging travel to the vast majority of easyJet destinations, including France, Portugal and Spain, forward bookings for the winter are drying up.
On the key Gatwick-Malaga link, easyJet flights are available in October for £34 return – about a quarter of the average fare needed to break even.
Earlier in the week Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, said November and December bookings were 90 per cent down on levels a year ago.