As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and more countries enter lockdown mode, businesses that exist to move people from place to place are suffering—citizens are being asked not to cross streets, let alone borders. And the airline industry has been hit hard by an unprecedented drop in demand as governments issue increasingly stringent travel restrictions, including suspended traffic between the U.S. and 28 European countries, China, and Iran.
Here’s the latest on how three major U.S. airlines are responding:
- United Airlines: United has announced plans to slash service by 50% in April and May. CEO Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby have stated that they expect to see passenger load factors of just 20% to 30% on flights in the coming months, and they anticipate service cuts to continue into the summer, traditionally peak service season for carriers.
- Delta Air Lines: Delta is reducing seats by 40% for the next four months, which is the deepest cut in the company’s history, surpassing its post-September 11 measures. In a memo about the service changes, CEO Ed Bastian said that Delta had been experiencing negative net bookings for the coming four weeks, with more cancellations than new reservations.
- American Airlines: American is cutting capacity for international long-haul flights by 75% between March 16 and May 6, which is the largest reduction by a U.S. carrier. With these latest cuts, American will have eliminated all flights to Asia except thrice-weekly flights between Dallas and Tokyo’s Narita airport. It will operate one daily flight to London’s Heathrow airport from Dallas and Miami only.
All three carriers have said they’re in talks for financial aid from the government, and they might very well need it. The CAPA Centre for Aviation, an industry intelligence firm, recently predicted that most world airlines would be bankrupt by the end of May due to COVID-19.
In other words, it’ll be tough to fly around these next few months. But on the bright side, for those of us already practicing the recommended “social distancing,” really nothing has changed!