Airline capacity continues to be restored world-wide. According to recent data from aviation data and analytics company, Cirium, the number of stored aircraft has dropped to 48.5%. This is a stark improvement over numbers in mid-April when the pandemic forced two-thirds of the global passenger jet fleet into storage. The crisis, however, will continue to unfold its impact throughout 2020, and full recovery is still some time off. During a recent media briefing of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on COVID-19, it was reported that airlines are projected to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 and suffer a 50% reduction in revenue estimated at $419 billion.
“Financially, 2020 will go down as the worst year in the history of aviation,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive. The industry has a steep road ahead, and an additional $16 billion loss is projected for 2021.
According to IATA, these losses are driven by a dramatically decreased passenger demand. Compared to 2019 numbers, global air travel fell 95% at the height of the pandemic. Although traffic is starting to improve, only 2.2 billion passengers are estimated to travel in 2020, a number last seen in 2006. To reverse this trend, restoring the global public’s confidence in air travel is imperative.
In a positive development, some countries are coordinating their efforts to open up their borders for air travel. For example, on June 15th, the European Commission launched “Re-open EU,” a web platform aimed to help travelers originating in the European Union (EU) confidently plan travel and vacations within Europe. The platform provides real-time information on borders, transportation options, travel restrictions and public health announcements.
On a similar note, IATA urges governments to globally coordinate the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) guidelines to restart an orderly return to global air traffic.
Winning back passengers’ confidence and making it easy for people to travel will continue to be a priority for the aviation industry.
More Airlines Resuming More Flights
The way forward continues to be evident as more airlines across the globe are increasingly resuming their flights. The news is encouraging. For example, Austrian Airlines indicated that starting June 15th, 2020, it will have resumed its short-haul services to 27 cities. In addition, Austrian noted its plans to add ten more cities after June 22nd. Other airlines are following a similar pattern.
Lufthansa noted that it will have added 20 more routes from Frankfurt and 34 routes from Munich to its schedule effective June 15th. In number of flights, its schedule will go from 500 to 900 flights weekly in June. Lufthansa also will be adding long-haul flights from Frankfurt to Cairo, San Jose in Costa Rico, and Beijing and Shanghai, China. New flights will be added from Munich as well to San Francisco, Delhi, Montreal and Seoul.
Austrian’s sister airline, Brussels Airlines, which hadn’t flown since March 21st, also will have resumed flights effective June 15th Between June and August, the airlines expects to be servicing a network of 59 destinations.
Aegean Airlines’ plans for restarting flights effective June 15th include those from Thessaoloniki, Greece to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart, Germany and Larnaca, Cyprus. Its Tel Aviv flights will resume pending travel restrictions ending.
For some airlines, July will mark the start of their flight resumption. For Iberi Airline and its affiliates, Iberia Express and Iberia Regional units, 40 short-haul and medium-haul flight destinations will start up in July, to be increased to 53 destinations in August. Long-haul flights will follow once the airline is confident that quarantine and travel restrictions in countries it serves are lifted.
In addition to resuming flights, some airlines are adding capacity. The low-cost carrier, Eurowings, noted its plan to add 40 new European destinations to its flight schedule and increase its operational fleet by 100% through the addition of 20 Airbus aircraft by June 30th.
For more information, visit: https://www.flightglobal.com/networks/european-carriers-take-tentative-steps-to-restoring-networks/138589.article
Some U.S. Airlines Reporting Increase in Demand
Recently, certain U.S. airlines have reported that demand for their flights is increasing. The assumption is that summer travel is driving renewed interest in air travel. Among those airlines reporting slight increases are Southwest, United, American and Delta.
In its report, Southwest states that new bookings have surpassed cancellations. New flights are projected to be at between 35%-45% capacity. That capacity is approximately 45% of what it was for Southwest in June of 2019.
As for United, it noted “a moderate improvement in demand” for U.S. based travel, as well as some international flights. Its reductions are more severe than Southwest. United reduced its capacity by 75% of what it was last July. The airline did, however, note that it would be continually evaluating and restoring flights based on demand.
In their reports, American noted its planes are flying approximately 35% full; a 15% increase over April 2020, and Delta reported a modest increase in sales. According to Delta CFO Paul Jacobson, the airline is taking a cautious approach, observing what travelers will be able to do once they arrive at their destination. Delta’s plans also include an increase in international flights in June. Shanghai flights are among them pending government approval.
Airports Gear up for the New Normal in Air Travel
We all knew the pandemic was going to change air travel as we knew it. How much so still remains unknown, but based on the measures already being implemented by airlines, we know that social distancing, masks and temperature checks are already in place. Now, we’re seeing more and more measures coming from the airports all in an effort to promote passenger and staff safety.
Airports around the world differ in some of their measures, but among those that are being widely adopted are things like plexiglass dividers separating passengers from staff such as baggage handlers, as well as sanitizers and disinfectants in locations around the airports. Some airports will take on something of a healthcare environment. Dubai Airports, for example, have their workers dressed in disposable gowns and safety visors. Safety measures at Charles de Gaulle Airport include alternating seats with those in between blocked off, and elevator floors marked for social distancing with just three people allowed inside at a time. This airport is also conducting tests on equipment that can check the temperatures of 16 people per second. If applied, the equipment would be placed at baggage claims and passengers would be checked as they leave the area. For passengers detected to have a high temperature, a rapid COVID-19 diagnostic test performed by the airport’s medical personnel would be recommended.
Other measures implemented by airports include Munich’s installation of vending machines containing disposable masks, gloves and sanitary wipes, as well as Helsinki Airport’s requirement that individuals meeting passengers at the airport stay in their cars or in an empty terminal building, and not enter the main terminal.
Some of the world’s busiest airports too are executing new safety measures. At Europe’s third largest hub, Amsterdam Schiphol, measures were taken to minimize contamination by closing every second check-desk and departure gate. Additionally, every flight is assigned its own baggage claim belt. The fourth busiest airport in Europe, Frankfurt Airport, has performed a redesign of various areas including check-in counters, baggage claim, boarding pass and security checkpoints directing passengers and staff to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 meters from any other individual. To further reinforce their social distancing requirements, the airport has placed posters across its facilities, and is using a Public Announcement (PA) system which conveying its social distancing rules every five minutes in multiple languages. Frankfurt also has deployed agents to further enforce its distancing rules.
Currently a new system is in the development stage that many airports are considering. If fully developed and proved effective, the system would include features for screening passengers and then giving certificates to indicate a passenger is not infected with the virus or is immune (based on having had it). It also would have contract tracing function.
Suffice it to say that air travel has entered a new phase focused on preventing the spread of a deadly virus and another global pandemic.