Coronavirus: EasyJet's first Gatwick to Glasgow and Inverness flights in 11 weeks

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Gatwick to Glasgow flightImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Passengers board the Gatwick to Glasgow flight on Monday morning

EasyJet flights from Gatwick Airport to Glasgow and Inverness have touched down for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown in March.

The Glasgow service, one of nearly 300 being operated by the airline this week, arrived shortly after 08:00.

All passengers and crew - totalling about a third of normal capacity - had to wear face masks.

EasyJet also flew a reduced Gatwick to Inverness service, which landed just before 15:00.

The airline said "people need to travel" as many businesses and industries reopen.

Ali Gayward, who is head of EasyJet in the UK, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that many of their upcoming flights would be close to full.

Scottish workers

She said: "We are seeing significant demand - people are desperate to get back to their lives and to business.

"If you look at some of the major infrastructure projects reopening across the UK, so many of those workers originate from Scotland and they need to travel to their places of work during the week."

EasyJet has previously said half of its network would be reopened by the end of July, increasing to 75% during August.

Image source, Peter Jolly
Image caption,
Passengers touched down safely at Inverness Airport on Monday afternoon

These flights will be mainly restricted to domestic routes in the UK and France.

Rival Ryanair has operated a very limited schedule of flights during the pandemic, and has said it is planning to resume 40% of its "normal flight schedules" in July.

'We had three seats each, it was extraordinary'

Image source, PA Media

Travel expert Simon Calder was on board the Gatwick-Glasgow flight and described the experience as "extraordinary".

He said: "It was very strange. Normally on a Monday morning in the middle of June you would expect thousands of people and crowds and delays. But there was none of that.

"And, of course, nothing is open so I haven't had a cup of coffee all day.

"On the flight itself, we had about three seats per person. That's partly because none of us in Scotland and England can travel for fun and partly because the fares are so high.

"I paid £175 and I assume most passengers paid the same. It's this curious balance between demand from people who desperately need to travel and a very limited supply."

He added: "Hopefully over the coming weeks there will be more people who are able and willing to travel and that will help bring the fares down a bit."

Airlines have been hit hard by the pandemic as international travel has slowed to a trickle, prompting many to announce job cuts:

EasyJet has said it will cut up to 30% of its workforce - about 4,500 jobs

British Airways is proposing to make 12,000 of its 45,000 staff redundant, with more than 1,000 pilot roles at risk.

'Minimum cuts'

Ryanair is set to shed 3,000 jobs - 15% of its workforce - with boss Michael O'Leary saying the planned cuts are "the minimum that we need just to survive the next 12 months"

Virgin Atlantic, which employs 10,000 people, has said it will cut 3,000 jobs

Other European airlines cutting back include Germany's Lufthansa, which on Thursday said it would cut 22,000 jobs.

However, gradually carriers hope to get back in the air as restrictions are eased.