Airline’s call for emergency aid as coronavirus deepens

As the coronavirus crisis deepens and more countries close their borders and impose travel restrictions, FINN takes a look at some of the latest news and announcements from today.

Ryanair reduces seat capacity by 80 per cent

Ryanair has announced plans to ground the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next 7 to 10 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ryanair said the airline is expecting to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80 per cent and a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out. The carrier operates a fleet of more than 450 Boeing 737-800 series aircraft.

Austrian Airlines suspends scheduled operations

Austrian Airlines will temporarily suspend scheduled flight operations as of Thursday, 19 March 2020. The Lufthansa Group carrier has announced the suspension as a result of entry restrictions imposed by many countries in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

The last flight, OS 066 will land in Vienna from Chicago at 8:20am on March 19. Flight operations will be reduced in the run up to the last flight to bring all passengers and crews home if possible. The initial cancellation period will run until March 28 2020, and passengers who have booked a flight with Austrian Airlines during this period will be rebooked on other airlines if possible.

EU executive proposes 30 day ban on incoming travel

The European Union has proposed a 30-day ban on incoming travellers as the continent battles the spread of COVID-19

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said: “The less travel, the more we can contain the virus. Therefore … I propose to the heads of state and government to introduce temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU. These travel restrictions should be in place for an initial period of 30 days, but can be prolonged as necessary.”

Long-term EU residents, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, doctors and researchers working on containing the health crisis would be exempt from the ban. An EU official said the ban would cover 30 countries – all EU member states but Ireland, which would be encouraged to take the same action. It would also include the four non-EU countries that sit with the bloc in the Schengen open-border zone.

Air France-KLM Group slashes capacity by up to 90 per cent

Air France-KLM Group will cut capacity from between 70 per cent and 90 per cent to reflect the rapid decrease in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak

A press statement by the group said it was reducing flight activity “very significantly” over the next few days. The reduced capacity is currently scheduled to last two months. Air France has grounded its entire fleet of 10 Airbus A380 aircraft and KLM has grounded its entire fleet of nine Boeing 747 aircraft.

Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld call for suspension of slot usage and tax rules

Global airlines are collectively calling for governments to help the industry sustain the US$ 100bn hit from travel restrictions and mass cancellations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld have released a joint letter asking regulators to suspend slot usage rules requiring airlines to use airport space or lose it, re-evaluate airport landing fees and for governments to consider “all possible means” to assist airlines.

Korean Air to use passenger planes for cargo

Korean Air is to use passenger aircraft to transport cargo on suspended passenger routes such as Ho Chi Minh City and Qingdao from March 13.

Entry restrictions imposed by countries on passengers departing from Korea, plus an overall drop in demand, has led to the suspension of 89 of Korean Air’s 124 routes – an estimated 86 per cent reduction in international flights by the airline.

​Norwegian to cancel 85 per cent of flights and lay-off 90 per cent of staff

Norwegian is suspending the majority of its services and laying off 7,300 employees, initially on a temporary basis as it seeks to weather the coronavirus outbreak.

A statement for Norwegian read: “The COVID-19 situation is escalating by the hour and due to stagnating demand and enforced travel restrictions by authorities worldwide, Norwegian will gradually cancel most of its flights and temporarily lay off a major share of its workforce.”

Polish domestic travel suspended

Domestic air traffic in Poland has been suspended today following a government announcement.

The country has already closed its borders and restricted entry to foreign citizens. Flights are restricted to returning Polish citizens in other countries to their homeland.

United Airlines reduces London and Dublin flights

United Airlines has cancelled many of its flights to London and Dublin following the US government’s expansion of its travel ban to include passengers from the UK and Ireland.

The decrease will come into action from March 20 until at least the end of April.

The airline will operate just three daily flights to London and one daily flight to Dublin. London flights will depart from Newark, San Francisco and Washington Dulles, the airline says.

Before the expansion of the travel restriction United had planned to fly 18 daily flights to and from London, and three daily flights to Dublin. The bans prohibit foreign nationals who have visited the 26 countries in the Schengen zone, UK and Ireland, from entering the USA.