Easyjet has sparked outrage after paying shareholders £174 million in dividends despite appealing for taxpayer support through the coronavirus pandemic.
Labour MP David Lammy described the move as “greedy super capitalism at its worst” as the UK government drew up plans to buy into airlines to save the industry.
The airline has said it might need lines of credit or loans from the government to cope with the crisis.
But it said that this would not affect the payout to shareholders, £60 million of which will go to its founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
The Greek-Cypriot, who controls 34 per cent of Easyjet shares, was silent yesterday when The Times asked whether the dividend payment should go ahead.
A spokesman said he would not make any comment.
Withdraw or postpone dividend
It is understood that the airline took legal advice on whether it could withdraw or postpone the dividend.
Johan Lundgren, its chief executive, told BBC radio that the payment was “something that we are legally obliged to do”.
Scores of other stock market listed companies are withdrawing or reconsidering their annual payouts.
A spokesman for Easyjet said that the airline was not looking for a taxpayer bailout. Mr Lundgren said: “We are looking for loans on a commercial basis.
“We are not asking for free money.”