- A reduction in the demand for travel combined with government-imposed travel restrictions has forced some airlines to temporarily suspend operations.
- The US, Poland, Denmark, Latvia, and other countries have restricted access for non-citizens, hurting business for national and regional carriers alike.
- European airlines Air Baltic, LOT Polish Airlines, La Compagnie, and Scandinavian Airlines were among the first to suspend their operations.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Numerous airlines are temporarily suspending or drastically reducing their operations as the travel industry is experiencing record low demand as Covid-19 spreads around the world.
The fear of contracting the virus combined with government restrictions on travel has negatively impacted the travel industry in a way that hasn't been seen since after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Airlines began canceling flights to hotspots including China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran as the virus spread outwards from Wuhan. But the industry quickly saw a reduction in demand to all destinations as cases popped up in almost every continent.
As cancellations starting overtaking bookings, airlines took measures to inspire confidence in booking flights by waiving change and/or cancellation fees for future bookings.
The reduction in demand was worsened by travel restrictions set in place by US President Donald Trump that closed US borders to travelers who had visited the European Schengen Area, which was later expanded to include the UK and Ireland.
Here's the full list of airlines suspending operations due to the spread of coronavirus and government-imposed travel restrictions.
French boutique airline La Compagnie announced on Thursday that it would be suspending operations until the president's travel restrictions are lifted. The entirely business class airline operates two routes from the French cities of Paris and Nice to Newark, New Jersey.
Despite Newark Liberty International Airport operating as an approved entry airport for the US under Trump's travel ban, passengers not approved to enter the country, including non-US citizens or permanent residents, would not be allowed to board flights originating in France.
The airline is one of the world's smallest with a fleet of only two Airbus A321neo aircraft exclusively operating the airline's transatlantic routes. XL Airways France, a sister airline operating low-cost, long-haul services from Paris, folded in 2019 with La Compagnie at risk to do the same as COVID-19 marches across France and continues to scare travelers from heading overseas.
La Compagnie expects to resume operations once the ban expires with one daily flight between Newark and Paris on April 15 while pushing back the launch of seasonal Newark-Nice service until June 1.
LOT Polish Airlines
LOT Polish Airlines is suspending its operations in Poland and Hungary following a directive from the Polish government to close its borders in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Polish flag carrier primarily operates flights from a base in Warsaw with a secondary base in Budapest, Hungary.
Polish news outlet Poland In is reporting 119 cases of the virus so far and three deaths as of Sunday. The country is not the first to restrict access to its territory in response to COVID-19 with nearby Latvia closing its borders as well.
As part of the Schengen Area, Poland was one of the countries affected by Trump's travel ban and its national carrier was among the airlines losing passengers as a result. LOT Polish plans to resume flights after March 28 when the government's ban is lifted.
Air Baltic announced that it will suspend all operations as the government of Latvia, where the carrier is based, has decided to largely close its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its country. The carrier will cease operations from March 17 until April 15, including in Estonia and Lithuania where it has secondary bases.
In the days leading up to the suspension, extra flights will be operated to accommodate passengers otherwise left stranded as more and more countries turn away foreigners.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
SAS Scandinavian Airlines announced on Sunday that it would be suspending most of its operations due to a decrease in demand for travel with an unknown resumption date. The airline which represents Denmark, Sweden, and Norway cited a lack of demand from the global spread of the virus combined with the closure of numerous national borders.
Denmark, where SAS maintains a sizeable intercontinental base in the country's capital of Copenhagen, has itself suspended entry from international visitors for a month. The Danish government's restrictions cut to the core of SAS' business especially as the airline inducted a new long-haul aircraft, the Airbus A350-900 XWB, to be based at Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport.
The airline was also heavily affected by Trump's travel restrictions as all three Scandinavian countries are members of the European Schengen Area.
Royal Jordanian Airlines announced on Sunday it would suspend all of its flights from Amman starting on March 17, becoming the first Middle Eastern airline to temporarily cease flying due to the spread of the virus. The suspension will remain in effect until the end of March.
The Jordanian flag carrier was forced to cancel the flights as the kingdom attempts to prevent an outbreak within its borders, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Austrian Airlines announced on Monday a temporary suspension of flights for a 10-day period starting March 18.
The airline is the first in the Lufthansa Group to entirely suspend operations, with its last flight operating from Chicago to Vienna on Wednesday night.
Finnair announced on Monday that it will be suspending a majority of its operation and will only be servicing "critical air connections for Finland." The airline's capacity starting April 1 will be reduced by 90% as mainly intra-Finland routes and select routes within Europe and to Tokyo are maintained.
The Finnish flag carrier was among the European carriers worst hit by the initial outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus in Asia. The airline maintains a sizeable intercontinental network focused on connecting Europe and Asia via Helsinki that was largely crippled when demand for Asian travel began to wane.
Virgin Atlantic Airways
Virgin Atlantic on Monday announced a major reduction in services that will see the airline temporarily grounding 85% of its aircraft by April. The scale-back comes at a vulnerable time for the UK's second-largest long-haul carrier as Virgin Atlantic is in the midst of a crucial expansion that has seen the aircraft take delivery of new aircraft and announce a slew of new routes aimed at making the airline more competitive with British Airways.
CEO Shai Weiss announced he will be taking a pay cut earlier in the month and asked employees on Monday to take two months of unpaid leave, the effects of which will be spread out in paychecks over the course of the next six months. The airline also announced the permanent termination of its London-Newark route, the airline's former flagship where it took its first flight in the 1980s.
Norwegian Air announced on Monday it will be canceling 85% of its flights as travel restrictions and the lack of demand have decimated its schedule. The low-cost carrier continues to be one of the hardest-hit airlines of the current crisis with recent government travel bans cutting to the core of the airline's long-haul business and forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights both within Europe and to destinations overseas.
Industry analyst Henry Harteveldt named Norwegian as one of the more vulnerable airlines in Europe due to its weak balance sheet. The airline has been dealing with numerous costly hiccups since its debut in the transatlantic market, particularly stemming from issues with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 737 Max aircraft.
Swiss International Air Lines
Swiss International Air Lines, along with other Lufthansa Group airlines, will see a steep reduction in short-haul and long-haul services by 80% and 90%, respectively, the airline's parent company announced Monday.
The parent of the Swiss flag carrier, Lufthansa Group, has been heavily affected by the spread of coronavirus as it was one of the first airline groups to announce a heavy reduction in flying within Europe and later to the US following Trump's travel restrictions for Europeans.
Brussels Airlines is another Lufthansa Group airline slated to see a significant suspension of operations as part of its parent company's Monday announcement to severely reduce flying across all member airlines.
The Brussels-based airline's German parent company announced long-haul flying reductions by up to 90% and short-haul reductions by up to 80%.
Low-cost carrier Eurowings is slated to be affected by the Lufthansa Group's announcement on Monday to reduce long and short-haul flying across all member airlines.
Eurowings primarily operates a short-haul network within Europe but also has a small long-haul network focused on the Americas that has been largely decimated by President Trump's travel ban for Europeans as the flights operate from Germany.
Air Dolomiti announced it will be largely ceasing operations for nearly a month's time as Italy remains under lockdown due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and demand for travel to the country declines.
The Lufthansa Group's Italian subsidiary, Air Dolomiti primarily connects the German cities of Frankfurt and Munich with cities across Italy.
Ryanair announced on Monday that the airline would be grounding the majority of its European fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft as coronavirus continues to cripple demand and countries across Europe are restricting access for foreign visitors. The Irish low-cost airline was heavily affected by the lockdown of Spain and Italy, two leisure destinations in Europe where the airline maintained multiple bases.
The infamous airline said that capacity in future months will be reduced by up to 80% and a full fleet grounding is possible if demand does not increase. The airline's operations are entirely limited to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, regions vulnerable to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Ukraine International Airlines
Ukraine International Airlines announced the cancellation of international flights until the end of March in response to the Ukraine government's closure of its borders to foreigners in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The airline's final flights will depart back for Ukraine on March 17 with only Ukrainian citizens or residents allowed onboard.
CSA Czech Airlines
CSA Czech Airlines announced it will be canceling all flights to its hub in Prague as the Czech government is closing its borders and preventing citizens from traveling abroad.
The government ban in an attempt to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Czech Republic is scheduled to remain in effect from March 16 until April 11.
The Air France-KLM Group, of which French flag carrier Air France is a leading member, announced the severe reduction of flights due to the spread of COVID-19 on the European continent and the resulting border closures around the world. The Paris-based group stated that is available capacity will be reduced to up to 90% as both airlines reduce the scale of their operation.
The airline's Airbus A380, the largest aircraft in Air France's stable, will also be grounded as demand dictates.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, another member of the Air France-KLM Group, will similarly be reducing the number of flights across its network.
The Amsterdam-based airline will be moving forward with the advanced retirement of its Boeing 747-400 aircraft that it was intending to retire in 2021.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand announced the scale back of its long-haul operation by 85% as the demand for international travel continues to decline amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The flag carrier's long-haul operation accounts for a sizeable chunk of its business model as the country is largely isolated in the South Pacific Ocean.
The International Airlines Group, of which British Airways is the largest member, announced a reduction in capacity of up to 75% in April and May. The UK flag carrier was among the first to reduce service on a transatlantic route when it reduced frequencies on its flagship, billion-dollar London-New York route earlier in March.
As a member of the International Airlines Group, Spanish airline Iberia will also be largely scaling back its operations and affected by the group's reduction in capacity by 75%. The airline has been hit hard with Spain under lockdown due to the spread of the novel coronavirus into the Iberian Peninsula.
Aer Lingus, the Irish member of the International Airlines Group, will be affected by its parent company's decision to reduce capacity in light of the novel coronavirus crisis impacting Europe.
Though initially spared by Trump's travel ban on European countries, the Irish flag carrier was hit hard when the ban was expanded to the UK and Ireland, both not members of the European Schengen Area.
Vueling, the International Airlines Group's low-cost subsidiary, will be subject to its parent company's announcement that it will be reducing capacity by 75% across all group airlines. The airline primarily operates routes from Spain and Italy, both of which are currently under lockdown to prevent a further outbreak of COVID-19.
LEVEL, the low-cost, long-haul arm of the International Airlines Group, will likely be affected by its parent company's announcement to reduce flights across the group by 75%.
The recently opened low-cost airline operates bases in France and Spain, both currently experiencing surges in Covid-19 cases, with service to the US, which is largely barring foreign travelers who have visited such countries in the European Schengen Area.
Qantas announced on Monday that it will be severely reducing capacity on both international and domestic routes.
Grounding around 150 aircraft, the Australian flag carrier will reduce capacity on its international routes by 90% while its domestic capacity will be reduced by 60%, despite the country not seeing a true outbreak compared to European countries.
Australia has not yet closed its borders and its citizens are not yet prohibited from entering the US unless they have visited an affected country under Trump's travel ban but the Australian government has requested its residents return home, the Guardian reported, as more countries close their borders.
Copa Airlines said in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the airline is planning to reduce capacity by 80% in April. The airline, based in Panama at the crossroads of the Americas, primarily connects passengers transiting between the two continents as well as Central America.
The filing also said it won't be ruling out a temporary shutdown as demand continues to decline due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Virgin Australia announced on Tuesday it will be ceasing international flying as demand continues to decline and the Australian government recommends its residents return home. The airline has a limited international network compared to flag carrier Qantas with routes primarily within Oceania with select routes to North America and Asia.
Virgin's domestic route network will continue to operate but experience reductions in capacity.
For more information direct from the source, see also:
- the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD)
- the latest statements issued by the national government
- the Twitter stream of health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize
- the World Health Organisation's Covic-19 outbreak page
the NICD hotline for Covid-19 is: 0800-029-999.
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