Eleven weeks after the last easyJet passenger flight touched down, Britain’s biggest budget airline is to resume flying.
The carrier has not flown passengers since 29 March 2020, when an easyJet plane brought stranded holidaymakers home from Tenerife to Gatwick airport.
Since then, the airline’s entire fleet of 344 Airbus jets has been grounded.
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But from 15 June the airline is resuming operations on routes where it believes “there is sufficient customer demand to support profitable flying”. They are mainly domestic links.
Gatwick, the biggest base for easyJet, is the departure point for the first flight operated in the “new normal” era of the coronavirus crisis.
Flight EZY883 is scheduled to depart at 7am on Monday morning, arriving at Glasgow 90 minutes later.
While rail passengers are urged to travel only if their journey is essential, easyJet is making no such stipulation.
But services are much less frequent, and flights more expensive, than before the Covid-19 pandemic.
When The Independent bought a Gatwick-Glasgow ticket six days in advance, the basic one-way price for the 370-mile journey was £175.
During the coronavirus crisis, easyJet has been losing £5m per day.
Passengers on the pioneering flight have been phoned individually in advance and asked if they still plan to travel.
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We just want to ensure customers are aware the flights are going ahead as we haven’t flown for many weeks.”
The airline is telling passengers: “Do not travel or go to the airport if you have Covid-19 symptoms.
“Face masks must be worn at the airport, at the gate when boarding the aircraft, and during the flight.
“You will not be permitted to board if you arrive at the gate without one.
“Only children under the age of six, and those with a valid medical reason supported by a letter from a medical practitioner are exempt.”
In accordance with Department for Transport (DfT) advice, easyJet is urging passengers to check larger pieces of luggage into the hold.
The aim is to accelerate boarding and reduce the amount of waiting in the airport aisle.
An easyJet spokesperson said: “We are allowing passengers to bring hand luggage on board but asking them to try and minimise this and advising them they will be required to stow it themselves in the overhead lockers.”
Ryanair has attacked the policy, saying it will increase the amount of handling and therefore possible risk.
The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary told The Independent: “We’re recommending passengers do exactly the opposite: maximise carry-on bags and minimise checked-in bags.
“Even though, clearly, we make more money out of checked-in bags.”
On easyJet’s Gatwick-Glasgow flight, checking in a bag weighing up to 15kg costs £25.49, taking the cost of the one-way flight above £200.
During the flight, cabon crew will not sell meals or drinks, though “drinking water will be available on request”.
Passengers must ask cabin crew for permission to use the on-board lavatory. The airline says: “Our crew will be managing use of the toilet facilities.”
To reassure passengers about the journey, easyJet says: “Our aircraft are already fitted with Hepa [high-efficiency particulate air] filters, the same as those used in hospitals, replacing cabin air every three to four minutes.
“The cabin is thoroughly disinfected daily, which provides surface protection from viruses that lasts for at least 24 hours.”
The Glasgow departure will be the first flight to or from Gatwick’s North Terminal since March.
While the Sussex airport has kept some flights operating, they have all used the South Terminal.
Gatwick’s opening hours, too, are being extended from Monday. Since the collapse in aviation, the opening hours have been restricted to 2pm-10pm.
The airport will now open from 6am.
Other UK airports on the initial easyJet network are Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Liverpool and Newcastle.
Key Continental locations include seven French airports: Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Nice, Paris CDG and Toulouse.
Barcelona, Geneva and the two biggest Portuguese cities, Lisbon and Porto, will also be served.
Notable omissions include Luton – where the airline is based – and Manchester.
From 1 July, easyJet will resume a much wider range of routes, though it will operate only 30 per cent of its originally planned services during the summer.
The airline says: “As Europe begins to reopen, we’re doing everything possible to reunite you with the loved ones and destinations you’ve missed, in the safest way we can.”
But the UK’s new quarantine law, requiring new arrivals and returning holidaymakers to spend 14 days in self-isolation, is stifling bookings.
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