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Coronavirus: the end of low-cost flying?

Fewer passengers and increased social distancing regulations could mean the end of low-cost flying. Credit: Pixabay

A decline in passengers and an increase in social distancing regulations could mean the end of low-cost flying, according to new industry estimations. 

There is “not an airline in the world” capable of flying planes that are only half full, said International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO Alexandre De Juniac on Wednesday. If they did, they would have to increase prices by 100%, he told French radio station Europe 1.

Airlines are working with experts to see whether or not it will be necessary to leave a large number of seats unused in order to comply with social distancing, De Juniac said.

“We are trying to see whether we can make them fly” at full capacity, De Juniac said, pointing out that “if you provide masks and gloves, knowing that the air is filtered, there’s a big question mark” as to the necessity of social distancing on airplanes.

Nevertheless, “we will not implement processes that will endanger the health of passengers,” he added.

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The airline industry is expecting a slow recovery due to the economic recession and to people’s reluctance to fly again. IATA predicted a loss of US $314 billion for 2020, which would represent a 55% decline in the sector’s turnover for the year, according to De Juniac.

Air traffic is currently down by 80% on average, and even 90% in some countries, according to De Juniac. “Basically, most airplanes are on the ground,” he said. There could be up to 1.2 billion fewer people flying internationally by September 2020, according to IATA.

Airlines will need some $200 billion to survive, according to De Juniac. If governments don’t intervene, or don’t intervene enough, the main risk facing airlines is “that we will run out of cash and the companies will go bankrupt as early as June and July,” he said.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

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