Saviours in the sky: Airlines operating some flights to get people back to safety and family

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on March 25, 2020 Published on March 25, 2020

Airline industry’s projected losses for 2020 revised upwards by IATA to $250 billion

India and a host of other countries have either completely stopped or drastically curtailed their scheduled domestic and international flights to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, the global skies are still seeing some airlines flying. The main reason cited by these airlines for operating their flights is to get as many people as possible back to their destinations.

In a statement late on Tuesday, Qatar Airways said it continues to operate more than 150 flights per day so that as many people as possible can get home safely to their loved ones, adding that, as of March 24, the airline is operating to over 70 cities worldwide.

“We are constantly reviewing our operations to see where there is more demand and requests, and wherever possible we will add more flights or bigger aircraft. This is a challenging time for the aviation industry, and we are thankful to airports and authorities and their staff around the world for their incredible efforts to help us get passengers home,” the airline said in a statement. Incidentally, with India stopping all foreign airlines from flying in till March 29, Qatar Airways has had to stop operations to and from India.

Similarly, the United Airlines website says, “While our international schedule will be reduced by about 90 per cent in April, we will continue flying six daily operations to and from the following destinations — covering Asia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.”

“This remains a fluid situation, but United continues to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world, especially in these challenging times,” the website adds.

The website shows that the New York/Newark Frankfurt flight (960/961), the one connecting Houston to Sao Paulo, (flight 62/63) and the San Francisco-Sydney flight (flight 863/870) will continue to operate till May.

Similarly, Turkish Airline’s website shows that starting from March 27 till April 17, all its international flights will be suspended except those to New York, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa. The website says that its India flights are suspended till April 17.

Lufthansa, too, is scheduled to operate from both Frankfurt and Munich to Cape Town, between Frankfurt and Chicago today and will fly between Bangkok and Frankfurt on Thursday.

Projected losses deepen

But despite these flights being in the air, the crisis facing the global aviation industry is serious. The International Air Transport Association on Tuesday evening revised its projected losses for the global airlines industry to $250 billion from its earlier projection of $113 billion for 2020.

A good idea of the seriousness of the situation can be gauged by the fact that on March 23, Singapore Airlines announced it will be cutting 96 per cent of the capacity that the airline had originally decided to operate till end-April, given the further tightening of border controls around the world over the last week to stem the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This will result in the grounding of around 138 SIA and SilkAir aircraft, out of a total fleet of 147, amid the greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence,” the airline said, adding that the Group’s low-cost unit Scoot will also suspend most of its network, resulting in the grounding of 47 of its fleet of 49 aircraft. In effect, this means that up to 185 aircraft of Singapore Airline’s combined fleet of 196 aircraft could be on the ground.

Published on March 25, 2020
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