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Capacity cuts latest: United, American, Delta big announcements

written by Dylan Nicholson | March 16, 2020

The global aviation industry endured one of its toughest weekends in living memory as airlines began to react to sweeping travel restrictions put in place to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

In a letter from chief executive Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby, United announced it will be cutting 50 per cent cut of its capacity for April and May.

“We also now expect these deep cuts to extend into the summer travel period.  Even with those cuts, we’re expecting load factors to drop into the 20-30 per cent range – and that’s if things don’t get worse,” the statement said.

“Together, we’re facing an unprecedented challenge. When medical experts say that our health and safety depends on people staying home and practicing social distancing, it’s nearly impossible to run a business whose shared purpose is ‘Connecting people. Uniting the world.'”

Boeing says many sales over the next two decades will be from fleet re-equipment program. (Rob Finlayson)


In a weekend of chaos, a large number of operators continued to decrease services and capacity:

  •  American Airlines said it would suspend 75 per cent of its long-haul international flights from the US, from 16 March until 6 May, and will cut back gradually over the next seven days to re-accommodate passengers and crew. The airline will continue to operate one flight daily from Dallas-Fort Worth to London and one flight daily from Miami to London. It will also continue to fly three times a week from Dallas to Tokyo.
  • In a letter revealed today, Delta CEO Ed Bastian has shared that his company will ground 300 of its aircraft and cut 40 per cent of its flights.“The speed of the demand fall-off is unlike anything we’ve seen – and we’ve seen a lot in our business. We are moving quickly to preserve cash and protect our company. And with revenues dropping, we must be focused on taking costs out of our business,” he said.
  • All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines said Friday they will cancel more domestic flights as travel demand is drying up in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak. ANA will also cancel some international flights bound for Europe and North America from late March after suspending some Asian services following the outbreak of the virus in China.  An additional 1,360 ANA flights on 42 routes will be cut this month, raising the total number of canceled flights to 2,224. JAL will cut another 1,468 domestic flights on 60 routes by 28 March, bringing its total cancellations due to the virus to over 3,000.
  • On 13 March, a video was distributed to all KLM employees. The video had the airline’s CEO, Pieter Elbers, deliver the news that 1,500 to 2,000 jobs would be cut in light of the coronavirus situation. In addition to this, 30-40 per cent of flights will be suspended by the airline as it fights to manage its costs and avoid financial ruin.
  • Hawaiian Airlines will cut its flight capacity by as much as 10 per cent next month and up to 20 per cent in May because of reduced demand amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Turkish Airlines has announced that it has suspended routes to nine destinations across the continent due to coronavirus. Altogether, flights to Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and the Netherlands will be halted until 17 April.
  • El Al has announced that following recent additional travel restrictions introduced by the Israeli government, it will stop flying most of its routes from 15 March. Despite the overwhelming number of service suspensions, there will be a short list of exceptions, including flights from Tel Aviv to Toronto, New York, London, Paris, and Johannesburg.
  • LOT Polish Airlines has announced it will be suspending all flights from both Poland and Hungary as of tomorrow for a period of 10 days.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak has forced Emirates to ground over 20 of its Airbus A380 aircraft.
  • airBaltic will suspend all flights from 17 March until the middle of April.
  • Scandinavian Airlines said that it will temporarily halt most of its traffic starting Monday, 16 March. The suspension of the majority of its flights will be accompanied by temporary lay-offs for many of its staff.
  • Singapore Airlines has opted to retire its 777-200ERs earlier than expected.

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