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EasyJet Switzerland seeks state aid as virus empties skies

Numerous EasyJet planes have been parked on the tarmac at Geneva Airport as a result of the the coronavirus pandemic. Around 40% of the airport's traffic comes via Easyjet. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Airlines around the world are battling to survive the coronavirus pandemic. After grounding its fleet of planes on Monday, EasyJet Switzerland has confirmed that it is hoping to receive Swiss state aid. 

This content was published on March 31, 2020 - 17:25
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EasyJet said on Monday that it had grounded its fleet of 344 planes and had no clear idea when it might resume flights. In Switzerland, the airline normally operates flights to Geneva, Basel-Mulhouse and Zurich airports.

Owing to the global health crisis which has brought the European air travel to a standstill, the regional branch of EasyJet is requesting state support.

An airline spokesman said on Tuesday: “As a Swiss airline employing around 1,000 people with local employment contracts, EasyJet’s regional subsidiary has established contacts with the working group responsible for aviation-specific support measures.”

The German-language business weekly Handelszeitung earlier reported that EasyJet had submitted a request to the federal authorities for a cash injection.

The Swiss authorities have set up an aviation working group to examine requests for support for the sector. Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) also hopes the Swiss state will step in to help it deal with the impact of the new coronavirus. 

The Lufthansa subsidiary has reduced the frequency of its commercial flights by over 80%. Around two-thirds of its fleet has been withdrawn from service and numerous SWISS planes are parked at Dübendorf military airport, near Zurich.

Empty skies

The skies over the small Alpine nation are largely emptyExternal link during the current lockdown. Flights across Switzerland’s airspace fell by almost 90% in March, the air navigation service Skyguide reported on Tuesday. 

Global airlines will not start to recover from their worst-ever crisis until the last quarter of this year and any rebound will be short-lived if there is a new winter wave of coronavirus, the International Air Transport Association also warned.

Many carriers, even those with strong finances, are struggling to survive.

"These are numbers beyond anything we have ever had in our industry," said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General of IATA, which urged governments to speed up bailouts for airlines facing estimated full-year revenue losses of $252 billion. 

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