EasyJet has agreed a deal with Airbus to push back an order for 24 aircraft due for delivery in 2020-2022.
The move follows pressure from EasyJet founder and largest shareholder Stelios Haji-Ioannou to cancel or renegotiate an order for 107 Airbus jets, including through the threat of legal action and the removal of board members.
EasyJet’s previous fleet growth strategy envisaged taking delivery of 10 new aircraft in 2020, 12 in 2021 and two aircraft in 2022, but it will now receive no new aircraft in 2021 and has the option to defer a further five aircraft due in 2022.
“Exact dates of future deliveries of the deferred aircraft are to be agreed in response to the demand environment,” the airline states.
The UK-based low-cost operator can also defer or cancel the leases on 24 jets due for renewal over the next 16 months, giving it “further flexibility” as it adjusts its fleet strategy to a new operating environment.
“Our industry is facing unprecedented challenges which require unprecedented action,” comments chief executive Johan Lundgren.
“As we have consistently said, we remain completely focused on improving short-term liquidity and reducing expenditure across the business. Today, I am pleased to announce that we have agreed with Airbus to amend our delivery schedule by deferring the purchase of 24 aircraft, providing a significant boost to our cash flow and a vast reduction to our near-term capex programme.”
EasyJet has also announced that it will hold a general meeting of shareholders to discuss proposals to remove directors Andreas Bierwirth and Andrew Findlay, also the airline’s chief financial officer, as has been advocated by Haji-Ioannou.
EasyJet believes the ultimate beneficial owner of the shareholder groups that requested the general meeting is Haji-Ioannou’s EasyGroup.
Haji-Ioannou has fought an uncompromising war of words against EasyJet’s management in a bid to force them to abandon their Airbus orders. Taking aim at EasyJet’s use of a government assistance scheme for the sector, he this week told the London Stock Exchange that: “The reason Findlay wants to borrow this £600 million from the UK taxpayer is to pay [Airbus] £2 billion – that is the liability between this year and next year, and before the government loan is due for repayment.”
He added that if EasyJet sends money to Airbus and fails to repay the UK government in March 2021, he will “personally sue” those involved for breach of their fiduciary duties.