Coronavirus: Travellers are giving up their plane tickets
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    Coronavirus: Travellers are giving up their plane tickets

    This brings the total number of infected people that have been confirmed with the coronavirus in Belgium to 13. Credit: © Belga

    Many travellers are giving up their plane tickets for fear of travelling during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported on Monday, noting that prospects for air travel in the next few weeks are anything but brilliant.

    According to IATA, airlines said about half of their passengers failed to show up for flights and a major carrier, which the association did not identify by name, reported a 108% drop in bookings for flights to Italy. Bookings were being cancelled and there was a spike in requests for reimbursement.

    With reservations down, airlines have been forced to adapt by taking measures such as sending staff on unpaid leave, carrying out temporary layoffs, instituting wage freezes or keeping planes on the ground.

    Due to the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), IATA has been contacting the world’s air traffic regulators to get them to lift immediately airport slot regulations for the 2020 season.

    About 43% of all passengers depart from over 200 networked airports worldwide. Current regulations mean that, under normal circumstances, airlines must use up at least 80% of these slots. Failing that, they could lose a portion of their allocation in the next corresponding aviation season.

    Under exceptional circumstances, however, regulators may soften this requirement. Given the current public health emergency, IATA feels it would be inappropriate to enforce it during the next season, which goes until October. It is thus calling for greater flexibility to allow airlines to respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity levels, thereby saving planes from having to fly almost empty to keep their aviation slots.

    This will allow airlines to reassign planes to other routes or ground them, while crews can have greater certainty regarding their time schedules.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times