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Tuesday airline cuts: Qantas, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic announcements

written by Dylan Nicholson | March 17, 2020

The world’s airlines continued to make unprecedented cuts to their services on Tuesday, as many countries entered virtual lockdown.

Qantas announced 90 per cent of international capacity will be cut, Virgin will ground 80 per cent of its flights, while EasyJet is considering halting most of its operation.

Cathay Pacific and Qantas are keen to deepen their codeshare partnership. (Seth Jaworski)

Qantas said in a statement, “As a result of significant falls in travel demand due to Coronavirus, and new government restrictions across multiple jurisdictions in recent days, Qantas and Jetstar will make further and much larger cuts to domestic and international flying schedules.” The airline will also stop 60 per cent of domestic flights.

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The cuts are to be phased in from the end of March and will continue throughout May. They represent the grounding of around 150 aircraft, including almost all of the group’s wide-body fleet.

Other cuts newly announced include:

  • Virgin Atlantic said it would cut 80 per cent of its flights by 26 March and ground 75 per cent of planes. Its route from London Heathrow to Newark has been terminated with immediate effect. Staff have been asked to take eight weeks of unpaid leave.
  • Norwegian Air said it was cancelling 85 per cent of its flights and would temporarily lay off 90 per cent of its staff – 7,300 people. Scandinavian airline SAS is temporarily laying off 10,000 employees, or 90 per cent of the workforce.
  • Austrian Airlines will temporarily suspend regular flight operations from Wednesday (18 March) until 28 March. Austrian Airlines will cancel all flights until 28 March. However, as this suspension is just 10 days long, it is possible that it could be further extended. During the duration of the flight suspension, Austrian will rebook passengers on other airlines if it is possible.
  • Air France will ground its remaining Airbus A380 fleet as a result of the unprecedented situation presented by the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, KLM will ground its remaining Boeing 747 aircraft for the same reason.
  • As uncertainty continues to plague the airline industry, low-cost carrier EasyJet is today saying that it could be forced to ground most of its 300 aircraft.
  • Cathay Pacific is going against the global trend and is resuming some flights between the US and Europe. The airline is temporarily reintroducing flights in time for Easter so stranded passengers can return home. There will be flights between Hong Kong and London Heathrow and routes to North America.

Share prices in virtually all airlines have collapsed by more than 50 per cent since the coronavirus crisis struck Europe.

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