EasyJet founder demands vote on sacking of director in £4.5bn plane order row

The founder of easyJet has demanded a vote on whether to sack one of the company’s directors, in a row over a £4.5 billion aeroplane order.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s holding company easyGroup on Wednesday requisitioned a meeting of the company’s shareholders to decide whether to remove Andreas Bierwirth from the easyJet board.

It follows through on a threat from the businessman, who is easyJet’s biggest shareholder, to start sacking directors if the company did not take steps to cancel its order of 107 aircraft from Airbus.

The Luton-based carrier grounded all of its planes earlier this week as demand for flights collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren has indicated the airline would consider accepting Government bailout loans if needed.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou

EasyJet’s board said it is “considering the contents” of Sir Stelios’s requisition and will announce its decision in time.

On Tuesday, Sir Stelios said the Airbus order, which will see £4.5 billion paid to the European plane maker over the next three years, is easyJet’s “main risk to survival”.

He said he is concerned easyJet did not consider the crisis to be a “force majeure” – a legal term for unforeseen circumstances that allow a business to get out of a contract.

Sir Stelios said: “In short, I would rather spend shareholders’ scarce money paying lawyers to defend easyJet against a potential legal action by Airbus demanding payments for dubious penalties rather than buying overpriced planes that will sit on the ground or fly their passengers at a loss.”

He has threatened to remove a non-executive every seven weeks unless his demands are met.

Separately, fellow budget airline Wizz Air has said the number of passengers it is carrying dropped by 36% in March, as it cut capacity by 34%. It is operating flights between China and Hungary to deliver medical equipment, the carrier said.