A sharp reduction in air traffic began in China but has since quickly spread to Europe and the United States, leaving skies empty across the globe as coronavirus spread. Now, it is increasingly likely nearly all planes will be grounded by April, various news reports warn.
Earlier this month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that global revenue losses of the airline industry this year, depending on how quickly the pandemic ends, could be anywhere between $63 to $113 billion.
Some of the biggest airlines have already canceled the majority of their flights for the coming months: Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, one of the largest Asian airlines with a fleet of 133 aircraft, has already canceled 96 percent of its April flights, but is also prepared to scrap the rest.
South African Airways, on the brink of bankruptcy since 2012 and dependent on a government lifeline, suspended all its international flights. The airline was already plagued with a series of bad management decisions, an ageing fleet and recurring corruption scandals.
The gigantic British Airways, featuring 282 aircraft, has cancelled at least three quarters of its April and May flights, and Willie Walsh, the CEO of its parent International Airlines Group, has delayed his planned retirement to help the group through the storm.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline with 309 aircraft, has cancelled most of its flights through May but is also prepared for a full shutdown.
On March 21, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said the global airline business will need $200 billion in emergency aid.
“The scale of the current industry crisis is much worse and far more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the 2008 Global Financial Crisis,” he said.
In a broader perspective, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) President and CEO Gloria Geuvara warned that in the upcoming holiday season, the tourism industry could lose one million jobs per day and a total 50 million jobs are at risk.
Title image: Travelers wear face masks as they wait at Heathrow Airport in London, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)