As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, the head of the trade group representing the world’s airlines, the International Air Transport Association has described losses in the industry as “its deepest crisis ever.”
According reports, commercial flights have stopped an analysis have shown that there have been series of sequential and precipitous declines in flights in four key regions.
From March 24 to March 30, FlightAware tracked about 280,000 flights, down almost 500,000 from the same week a year earlier.
In late March, the International Air Transport Association estimated lost revenue from the coronavirus will exceed $250 billion in 2020 and urged governments to offer immediate financial support to the industry.
The transport association said today’s crisis is far worse and more widespread than after 9/11, when U.S. airlines lost approximately $19.6 billion in revenue in 2001-2002. After the terrorist attacks, the U.S. government provided $15 billion to airlines in compensation and loan guarantees.
“Airlines are desperately trying to survive in the most difficult times imaginable,” said Alexandre de Juniac, head of the IATA.
“We have the people and the experience to see this through. But, to be perfectly frank, we don’t have the money.”
Because of travel restrictions enacted by governments around the world, the number of airlines grounding most or all of their fleets has grown rapidly over the past few weeks.
In the Middle East, major carriers including Emirates, Flydubai and Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s state airline, suspended all passenger flights.
Israel’s El Al slashed its flight schedule, and Turkish Airlines suspended all international flights on March 27.
In Asia, Singapore Airlines grounded most of its fleet on March 23 after the city-state banned all short-term visitors, and Qantas suspended international flights until at least May after the Australian government banned the arrival of non-citizens and non-residents.
Europe’s Aviation Industry Crisis
In Europe, passenger data from the region’s Airports Council International reveals an even deeper industry crisis than air traffic statistics indicate.
As of March 22, the number of passengers traveling into and out of European airports had declined by 88%, or 5.2 million fewer daily travellers compared to a year earlier.
In Italy, containment efforts to staunch the spread of the virus triggered a rapid drop. There, data shows a 98% decline in passenger travel, or 440,000 fewer daily passengers compared to the same time last year.
Budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet grounded most of their fleets in late March.
The number of passengers arriving to and departing from British airports has also declined, though at a slower pace than elsewhere in Europe. As of March 22, data shows passenger traffic down 82% from the same time last year.
One reason for the difference: The UK was originally exempt from the U.S. travel ban on foreign nationals who had recently visited China, Iran and a group of 14 European countries, said Michael Stanton-Geddes, head of economics at ACI-Europe.
The exemption “temporarily protected a lot of transatlantic traffic,” he said. “People getting from Europe to the U.S. had to go through London.”
As of mid-March, some vacationers were still leaving the UK for European destinations. On March 14, Jet2 turned around flights bound for Spain after the airline cancelled all flights to the mainland.
In China, air traffic is starting to pick back up after two months of severe travel restrictions. The country saw a half million fewer flights during the same two-month period compared to the same period a year ago.