Ryanair becomes latest airline to ground flights

The Ireland-based carrier said it did not expect to resume operations until at least June.

Ryanair - reuters
Ryanair is the latest airline to ground its fleet [File photo/Peter Cziborra/Reuters]

Ryanair on Tuesday said it does not expect to operate flights in April or May and has offered its aircraft to European governments for rescue or the essential movement of medicines and personal protective equipment.

“The experience in China suggests a three-month period for the spread of the virus to be contained and reduced. We do not expect to operate flights during the months of April and May at this time, but this will clearly depend on government advice,” the budget airline said in a statement posted on Twitter.

On March 18, Ryanair said it expected to ground most if not all of its flights from March 24 except a very small number mostly between Britain and Ireland.

Airlines around the globe are feeling the pain as travel demand withers because of the coronavirus outbreak, scrapping flights and ditching financial forecasts.

Air France-KLM said on March 16 it would park its biggest airliners and slash services by up to 90 percent. The group said it had identified measures to save 200 million euros ($223m) in 2020 and ways to cut its capital expenditure by 350 million euros ($380m).

Air New Zealand said on March 16 it would cut long-haul capacity by 85 percent in the coming months and the domestic network by 30 percent in April and May. The airline has withdrawn its full-year outlook, frozen hiring and offered unpaid leave to staff.

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American Airlines plans to cut 75 percent of its international flights through May 6 and ground nearly all its widebody fleet.

China Southern Airlines reported on March 18 a 73 percent drop in February passenger capacity, saying the impact from the epidemic remains uncertain.

Delta is cutting domestic capacity by 10 percent to 15 percent and international by 20 percent to 25 percent, freezing hiring, offering voluntary leave options to staff and looking at early retirement of older aircraft.

It had received over 4,500 requests from flight attendants for voluntary unpaid leave in April, according to a March 14 paper seen by Reuters.

German carrier Lufthansa cut long-haul capacity by up to 90 percent from March 17, and said it would only operate 20 percent of planned intra-Europe flights.

Austrian Airlines, a part of the Lufthansa group, has halted all regular flight operations until April 19.

Israel’s El Al sent 5,500 of its 6,000 workers on unpaid leave until May 31 after it slashed its flight schedule.

Emirates said on March 23 it would suspend all passenger flights for two weeks, starting from March 25.

On March 17, Finnair said it would cancel most of its flights until the end of June as it started transitioning to a limited network.

International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), the owner of British Airways and Iberia, said it would cut its flying capacity by at least 75 percent in April and May. The group detailed cost cuts including a freeze on discretionary spending, working hours reductions and a temporary suspension of employment contracts.

On March 17, the UK pilot union BALPA said that British Airways was due to make an unspecified number of pilots redundant.

Empty plane
Passenger numbers have been badly affected as more countries go into lockdown and would-be travellers avoid flying [File photo/Carlos Barria/Reuters]


JetBlue, which also pulled its first-quarter and 2020 earnings forecast, said it was adjusting schedules between March and early May and was considering more flight cancellations. The airline said the outbreak was expected to make at least a six percentage-point dent in its total revenue per available seat mile in the first quarter.

Norwegian Air said on March 16 it would cancel 85 percent of its flights and temporarily lay off 7,300 employees. The cancellations add to an already difficult financial situation at Norwegian, which has scrapped its 2020 outlook and lost 70 percent of its market value this year.

Qantas has suspended all international flights from Australia and around 60 percent of domestic traffic at least until the end of May. The airline said it could no longer provide guidance on the outbreak’s financial impact. Its CEO will take no salary for the rest of the year, the management team will receive no bonuses and all staff are encouraged to take paid or unpaid leave.

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Qatar Airways has laid off around 200 employees, all Filipino nationals based in Qatar.

The Danish and Swedish governments said on March 17 they would provide guarantees totalling 3 billion Swedish crowns ($302mn) to SAS, which has grounded most of its fleet and temporarily laid off 90 percent of staff.

Singapore Airlines on March 23 cut capacity by 96 percent, grounded almost its entire fleet and imposed cost cuts affecting about 10,000 staff.

Southwest, which has withdrawn its previous 2020 financial guidance, said it would reduce capacity by at least 20 percent from April 14 through June 5.

Portugal’s flag carrier, TAP Airlines, which had previously cut 3,500 flights through May, said on March 19 it would further reduce its operations between March 23 and April 19, expecting to fly to just 15 of its 90 destinations.

Chicago-based United Airlines said on March 20 it would slash its international schedule by 95 percent for April because of government restrictions prohibiting travel.

Virgin Atlantic, the UK-based airline, said it would ground 75 percent of its fleet by 26 March and by up to 85 percent at points in April, as it cancelled more flights.

Canada’s WestJet has suspended all commercial international flights for 30 days from March 22 and reduced its domestic schedule by 50 percent.

And Hungary-based budget airline Wizz Air said on March 23 it was operating at 15 percent of its capacity and warned that grounding its entire fleet remained a possibility.

Source: Reuters