If we don't get sufficient levels of support from the government...the aviation industry will not be intact.
The boss of EasyJet has warned airlines - which have avoided paying tax on fuel for decades - could go bankrupt amid the coronavirus outbreak without the support from the government, and ultimately the taxpayer.
Johan Lundgren, who appeared in a pre-recorded interview with Robert Peston on ITV on Wednesday evening, said the airline has so far cancelled 14,000 flights this month as the virus continues to spread.
His warning came as Ryanair announced it will cancel more than four out of five flights between Thursday and March 24 with an exception for "essential connectivity" journeys. Airline Jet2.com has suspended all of its flights until next month.
During his interview on Peston, Mr Lundgren said: "Everything from the Gulf War to the 9/11 to the Sars and the financial crisis in 2008 and ash cloud, there is nothing as bad as what I see right now. And the issue around it is really the uncertainty. You know, when is this going to end."
The interview was part of a growing lobby campaign by the airlines - some owned by billionaires - for state aid. Mr Lundgren added: "If we don't get sufficient levels of support from the government and this continues for that period of time, the aviation industry will not be intact."
When asked by Mr Peston to clarify what he meant, he said: "It will not be the way we look at it today... Businesses will go bankrupt long before a year from now unless there is support in there."
Mr Lundgren suggested in addition to access to loans on commercial terms, payments on taxes could be deferred as efforts to curb the virus continue.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps held a call with major airlines and airports on Wednesday and said the government was committed to helping the sector while thanking them for helping bring home British nationals stranded abroad.
He said: "Coronavirus is having a crippling impact on the aviation industry and we cannot allow it to force world-leading, well-run, profitable firms out of business.
"We are extremely grateful to airport and airline teams who are continuing to help passengers get home safely. We stand firmly behind the sector and expect to announce a series of support measures shortly."
The airline industry will have been one of the major networks of transmutation from where it was first detected in mainland China to almost every country in the world. Concerns about a global pandemic in an era of mass transit by airplane have featured in academic and government papers, and also popular culture.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article contains copy and information supplied by PA.