EasyJet: «Aid not only to Alitalia or damage to competition»

Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet: «Aid not only to Alitalia or competition is damaged»

For easyJet, the second low cost airline in Europe and the third carrier in Italy for passengers carried, it will be a slow return to normal. Of the 335 aircraft in the fleet, 15 will take off from June 15 – including a couple based in Italy – which will link 31 airports on the continent through 346 weekly flights. In our country from the middle of next month we will initially fly from eight airports (from Milan Malpensa to Palermo, Catania, Bari, Naples, Lamezia Terme, Cagliari and Olbia) with the addition of the international Brindisi-Geneva connection. For July and August you fly on sight. Also because the unknowns are not few. And in Italy even more considering the distance of one meter between the travelers imposed on board and the three billion to relaunch Alitalia. Money that “threatens to distort the market,” warns Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, in an interview with the Corriere della Sera.

Let’s start with the operational restart: how was it designed?
«Our approach envisages a gradual recovery in Italy, first at the domestic level. On the basis of subsequent evaluations we will proceed with international routes ».

The operations revolve around Milan Malpensa, one of your three bases in Italy: why?
“We have decided to take off to those destinations where there is sufficient demand.”

And it is also noted that the flights that restart are those along the North-South Italy axis.
“True, but because that’s where there is demand for now. As the question goes up we will also proceed with the increase in frequencies “.

Is there a roadmap on the next steps?
“Let’s see how this first phase goes and then we’ll make a decision.”

Are you noticing any changes in people’s behavior?
“Yes, bookings are increasing, but above all web searches for flights, in particular to and from Italy, a sign that there are customers who want to take holidays in your country. I must say that even during the lockdown there has always been a hard core of online searches. ”

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet (photo by Leonard Berberi / Corriere)
Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet (photo by Leonard Berberi / Corriere)

But in Italy there is a problem for you carriers: the obligation of social distancing by plane of at least one meter.
«Which we expect to end on June 15th, so we can start again with the possibility of selling every seat. We expect it because that’s what medical evidence tells us. Easa (the European Aviation Safety Agency, ed) and Icao (the UN structure for civil aviation, ed) gave their recommendations that go in that direction “.

Note: recommendations, not obligations. States can act differently.
“It’s true. But it would be impossible for the companies to operate respecting the Italian social distancing and selling only a third of the seats “.

What if Italy were to extend the distancing even after June 15?
«It will mean that we will not fly to you. But I think it is harmful for Italy, for the recovery of the economy, for tourism. The country risks falling behind. ”

Have you talked to anyone about this topic?
“Yes, with the Ministry of Transport.”

And what did they tell you?
“They haven’t answered us yet.”

The planes will be equipped with spare medical devices for crew and passengers, then there will be the sanitization of the cabin. All this carries an additional cost. How much are we talking about?
«An insignificant figure, but one that we do not disclose. The important thing is that people come back to consider flying a safe experience. ”

There is a fear that these extra costs can be downloaded on tickets.
«I would say that this is not the theme. If anything, the real theme is another ».

And would it be?
“Aviation is among the sectors most affected by the coronavirus and precisely for this reason, support must be available to all market players, not just some – and perhaps state ones – otherwise this creates a distortion”.

In short, the three billion euros to Alitalia do not go down …
«I don’t discuss the nationalization or not of the company, it’s a government decision. But my concern is that support for Alitalia will turn into favoritism against other carriers ».

Are three billion too many or too few in your opinion?
«I can’t tell you. I can say that the national supports allocated in Europe these weeks risk going to largely inefficient companies that will negatively influence the market ».

What do you fear?
“Italy is one of the main markets for easyJet, we have employees hired with local contracts, we transport more or less the same passengers as Alitalia, we contribute to the economy and tourism of the country. For this reason I do not understand and I find unacceptable support for a single carrier and not for all ».

Is it against public aid to carriers?
«Absolutely not, but this must take place – as for the funds requested by us – at market conditions, not freely given. There can be no favoritism ».

Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet: «Aid not only to Alitalia or competition is damaged»

The government intends to give 130 million to other Italian carriers.
“Here, does anyone explain to me why a state should make contributions only on the basis of the nationality of the airline operators’ certificates? I repeat: we have employees in Italy, we have several aircraft based in Italian airports, we pay taxes, we generate wealth from you, we have excellent relations with the Italian unions. We too are an Italian company if you go to see our operations. Do you understand why this national bond doesn’t make sense? ”

So you’re asking for access to those 130 million?
“I don’t understand why we couldn’t do it. In any case, we ask for more transparency in the mechanisms for accessing the fund. And we also ask for other interventions to help not single companies, but the whole air transport sector ».

What do you propose?
“For example, to reduce airport taxation or to create a fund for airports to incentivize airlines to fly to Italy.”

Excuse me, but one could object and ask: why should we help you if you and other carriers have fled leaving the country without more connections?
“Meanwhile, let me say that the Italian government, like others, has done very well to stop the movements. But the blockages between countries made it impossible to move and that is why we had to stop. But now, as in other sectors, the government must support air transport, without distinction ».