EasyJet will ground the majority of its aircraft from 24 March because of the coronavirus-related travel restrictions in force across its network.

The carrier will continue to operate rescue flights to repatriate customers, but anticipates this will mostly be complete by 23 March.

“These are unprecedented times for the airline industry. We know how important it is for customers to get home and so are continuing to operate rescue flights over the coming days to repatriate them,” states chief executive Johan Lundgren. “Significantly reducing our flying programme is the right thing to do when many countries have issued advice to their citizens not to travel unless it is essential and the aircraft groundings will also remove significant levels of variable costs at a time when this remains crucial.”

It will also continue to operate a skeleton schedule of “essential services” on some routes, mainly to and from the UK, but these will represent a maximum of 10% of its usual capacity for this time of the year.

“We will continue to review our flight schedule on a weekly basis to ensure that it matches current demand,” it says.

Cirium’s data shows that EasyJet was scheduled to operate nearly 11,000 weekly return flights in March, comprising over 1.9 million seats.

Lundgren has repeatedly appealed to the UK government to provide liquidity to the airline sector as it struggles to cope with the the fallout from coronavirus.

“This is really about industry survival,” he told ITV’s Robert Peston in a television interview on 18 March. “What we have been asking [government] for.. is about the support to ensure this industry not only survives but is there when the economic recovery takes place.”