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Friday airlines update: United drops 90% of May flights

written by Dylan Nicholson | April 17, 2020

United is set to cut the number of May 2020 flights by 90 per cent as it contends with a 97 per cent drop in passenger numbers year-on-year in April.

Chief executive Oscar Munoz released a statement outlining the tough times ahead for the business and its employees despite announcements of government assistance.

“To help you understand how few people are flying in this environment, less than 200,000 people flew with us during the first two weeks of April this year, compared to more than 6 million during the same time in 2019, a 97 per cent drop,” Munoz said.

“And we expect to fly fewer people during the entire month of May than we did on a single day in May 2019.”

United is still flying bare-bones schedules to maintain its connectivity within the US and critical regions abroad, but Munoz is expecting a return to travel to be slow even when the current crisis begins to clear because people will still remain wary of travel for a time.

A United Boeing 737-900ER N75432 "eco-skies". (United)
A United Boeing 737-900ER N75432 in “eco-skies” livery. (United)

Further cancellations may need to occur as other costs continue to go on despite flights becoming limited, and flight schedules are one area that airlines have the flexibility to cut costs.

In other airline news:

  • Ethiopian Airline’s CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, had revealed on 7 April a staggering $550 million loss in passenger revenue since January. Ethiopian Airlines can survive off its cargo operations alone until early July but if the current situation lingers or gets worse it may need government assistance.
  • WestJet is to lay off 700 of its pilots due to COVID-19.
  • Majority shareholder of EasyJet, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has called for the removal of Johan Lundgren, the airline’s CEO.
  • TAP Air Portugal appealed to the government for funds to ensure its survival post-coronavirus. The airline is operating a severely reduced schedule that poses a direct threat to its future. The airline has not disclosed the amount of aid requested.
  • Austrian Airlines has announced it is extending its flight suspension until 17 May.
  • Air New Zealand has outlined its plans to remove around 1,000 workers from its team in a bid to cut costs. The airline announced today that all of its Boeing 777 cabin crew would lose their jobs, along with a large portion of the Dreamliner team.
  • Finnair is following the lead of other passenger airlines and converting its aircraft into more freight-friendly jets. The airline disclosed this week that it would convert two of its Airbus A350s to meet cargo demand between Europe and Asia.

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