The airlines are facing a long and difficult winter as a hope for much return from the coronavirus crisis did not materialize, prompting wildlife reduction programs and new calls for government support.
Airline revenues fell 80% in the first six months of the year, according to the IATA industry body, but they still had fixed costs to cover – crew, maintenance, fuel, airport taxes and now aircraft storage.
After a slight recovery in July, while coronavirus restrictions were eased, traffic fell again in September while bookings for the winter season – which starts on October 25 – are up 78% from a year ago, promising more difficulties. to come.
One of the biggest disappointments has been the lack of highly profitable business class travelers who now prefer to rely on teleconferencing rather than risk catching the virus.
Repeated efforts to assure passengers that air travel is safe have failed to make much of a difference while government restrictions, including up to 14-day quarantines for the return of passengers, have only increased pressures on affected airlines.
The risk of contracting Covid-19 during air travel is really very, very low, he says Dr. David Powell, medical consultant for IATA.
Testing is the key to recovery
The industry as a whole hopes that the introduction of airport testing systems will restore passenger confidence and reduce if not completely eliminate the need to undermine quarantine regimes.
Test systems already exist at some of the world’s largest airports and on Friday France announced it will introduce rapid antigen-based testing by the end of the month.
We will start these tests at airports, especially for departures to United States or Italy and for achievements from countries on the red list (with high infection rate), French Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on the CNews television channel.
That way we will no longer have people arriving on French territory without being tested, he added.
Hong Kong and Singapore meanwhile they have announced that they are planning a travel bubble to allow unlimited flights.
Tests may help, but given the damage already done and the likelihood of more coming, IATA continues to sound the alarm, asking for more help from the government to keep the airlines at sea until there is at least one return of normalcy.
So far, IATA estimates that governments have provided $ 160 billion in aid, loans and tax breaks to help airlines cover current costs.
But after a catastrophic summer, usually the busiest part of the year when they build up their money reserves, airlines will not be able to do it during the winter, Head of IATAAlexandre de Juniac has warned repeatedly.
Earlier this month, United Airlines laid off 13,000 staff temporarily as it waited for politicians in Washington to destroy a new coronavirus aid package.
Low-cost pioneer Ryanair, which prides itself on not seeking state aid, announced Thursday that it was cutting its already reduced winter schedule by a third.
Other airlines are thinking of completely new places to boost business, with companies in Asia offering flights to nowhere – short round trips for those desperate to get back on the air and willing to pay for the privilege.
Singapore Airlines even opened one of its giant A380 jets as a restaurant as some began selling their food while flying to nostalgic, potential but ground-based passengers.
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