Coronavirus: April could be a month with almost zero flights as airlines axe more routes – The Independent

The world appears to be heading for a near-total shutdown of international passenger aviation in the month of April, with some groundings continuing until June.

South African Airways, which was dependent on government financial support before the coronavirus crisis began, says it has cancelled all operations in April and May.The airlines acting chief executive, Zuks Ramasia, said: In the best interests of our crew, passengers and the public, we have decided to suspend all international flights until 31 May 2020.

It is all our responsibility, not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus. In addition, the increasing risks to our crew of contracting the virus including the possibility of being trapped in foreign destinations as a consequence of increasing travel bans cannot be ignored.

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The announcement followedCathay Pacific cancelling 96 per cent of its flights in April.

The Hong Kong-based carrier plans three flights a week to London Heathrow, returning services to the level of the early 1980s. It intends to serve 11 other cities, including Singapore and Sydney.

Whilecoronavirus is at the root of the crisis, Cathay Pacific blames flight bans and other restrictions imposed by national governments for the collapse in demand.

The airline warned: Our ability to maintain even this skeleton schedule will depend on whether more travel restrictions are imposed by governments around the world which will further dampen passenger demand.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says: Evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations.

Airlines are extremely vulnerable when ticket sales dry up. Their business model is based on flying planes close to full capacity, with liquidity provided by advance ticket sales.

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Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

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Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

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Carriers incur fixed costs for aircraft leases and wages which are payable regardless of whether they have hundreds of flights each day or just a handful.

London, whose airports normally handle far more passengers than any other city in the world, is the most vulnerable location to a shutdown.

The biggest airline at the UKs busiest airport, British Airways, will cut flights by at least three quarters in April and May.

The chief executive of BAs parent company, IAG, has already said it. Willie Walsh, who has deferred his retirement to tackle the crisis, said: We have the flexibility to make further cuts if necessary.

UK carriers, as well as Ryanair of Ireland, have been in talks with the government about a package of measures to limit the damage to airlines.

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They are asking for state-backed loans and help in paying wages, as well as help with three specific costs: the European air passengers rights rules known as EC261 to be suspended; Air Passenger Duty to be removed to stimulate demand when flights resume; and a freeze on air-traffic control charges.

Separately, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has calculated that an average of one million jobs are being lost each day worldwide in travel and tourism as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.

The president and CEO, Gloria Guevara, said the reaction to the virus is wiping out an entire economic sector and that up to 50 million jobs were at risk.

It is heartbreaking that the livelihoods of millions of people who have dedicated their lives to the travel and tourism sector are being decimated, she said.

From waiters to taxi drivers, guides to chefs and caterers, pilots to cleaners, the relentless cascade of job losses is plunging millions of families into terrible hardship and debt, fearful of how to buy food and pay their bills.

We fear this situation will only deteriorate unless more action is taken immediately by governments to address it.

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Coronavirus: April could be a month with almost zero flights as airlines axe more routes - The Independent

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