British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic have all announced sizeable cuts to their services in the next couple of months.The grounding of fleets, the temporary layoff of employees, as well as the possibility of unpaid leave, are all part of the airlines' plans.The spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 and the increase in the number of countries worldwide closing their borders, but especially those in Europe and North America, is causing widespread temporary restructuring of the airline industry in order to survive.
British Airways, has said that it will be running only 75 to 80 per cent of its services in April and May compared with the same time last year. BA, which is part of IAG, headed by the industry veteran Willy Walsh, is better off than most, with a strong balance sheet and a total liquidity of £8.4 billion. Walsh, who has seen several airline crises and is an expert on restructuring, was due to retire next week but has said that he will remain for the time being to provide stability for the company.
Virgin Atlantic has warned that 75 per cent of its flights could be grounded by the end of March and 85 per cent by the end of April. It is also asking staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave in order to cut costs. Virgin Atlantic estimates that a £7.5 billion British government bail-out plan is needed to save the industry.
Ryanair says it expects to ground the majority of its fleet in the next 10 days and that it can not rule out cancelling all its flight. The company has stopped recruiting and is looking at considerable reductions in working hours and payments.
Easyjet says that the majority of its flights could be grounded soon but meanwhile it is continuing to run repatriation flights to get its customers home. Its chief executive Johan Lundgren has said that it will need a co-ordinated approach by European governments if the industry is to survive. He also confirmed that the company has a strong balance sheet, which includes £1.6 million cash and a £405 credit facilities.
At present the British government, which will be holding a special aviation “summit” this week, is looking at the possibility of less rigorous regulations regarding the use of landing slots at airports. At present airlines are required to fill their slots to a certain capacity and often have to fly what are called “ghost flights” to maintain the frequency with which they fill their slots. It is also suggested that the government will give airlines longer to pay the airport taxes they receive as part of passenger bookings.
Over the weekend two Jet2 was forced to turn back five flights to Spain in mid air due to the new Spanish coronavirus restrictions.
At the beginning of March Flybe, which operated 40 per cent of domestic British flights, and was Europe's largest regional airline, was put into administration. The airline was already in a serious condition but has blames its final demise on the coronavirus.
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