|21 May, 2020

EasyJet to restart flights in June with compulsory masks

EasyJet's planes have been grounded since late March

An EasyJet airplane is seen on the tarmac at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, France, April 10, 2018.

An EasyJet airplane is seen on the tarmac at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, France, April 10, 2018.

REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

LONDON - British low-cost airline easyJet said it would restart a small number of flights on June 15, becoming the latest airline to plan for the return of European travel by making face masks mandatory onboard.

EasyJet's planes have been grounded since late March when the novel coronavirus spread across Europe. The airline said it would restart primarily domestic flights in Britain and France from June 15, before adding other destinations later.

Flights would restart with new safety measures including the wearing of masks by passengers and cabin crew and enhanced cleaning of aircraft, said the airline on Thursday.

EasyJet joins bigger competitor Ryanair in making masks compulsory, as airlines add measures aimed at reassuring customers they can get back onboard safely amid worries about COVID-19 spreading on crowded planes.

Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and Wizz have all made masks mandatory and the CEO of British Airways owner IAG Willie Walsh has said he supports the idea.

EasyJet said the flights it was resuming would be on routes where it believes there will be enough demand to support profitable flying.

Like many airlines, restarting operations will use cash at a time when it is focused on preserving it as it seeks to make it through a period with very little activity.

"When more restrictions are lifted the schedule will continue to build over time to match demand," easyJet's chief executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement.

EasyJet also said that initially there would be no onboard food service on flights.

The airline will on Friday announce the results of a shareholder vote brought by its founder and biggest investor Stelios Haji-Ioannou on whether to remove from the board four directors including the CEO and chairman in a row over strategy.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton and James Davey) ((sarah.young@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 1109; Reuters Messaging: sarah.young.thomsonreuters@reuters.net))

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