Airline alliances call for government support amid coronavirus outbreak

Mar 16, 2020

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Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance — the three airline alliances — are calling on governments worldwide to “alleviate the unprecedented challenges” faced by the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“The human and financial impact that the COVID-19 outbreak is having on the aviation industry is unprecedented,” SkyTeam CEO and Managing Director Kristin Colvile said in the statement.

“SkyTeam, with its alliance partners, and on behalf of member airlines, is urging all involved institutions and industry stakeholders to face these extraordinary times with exceptional measures. This includes action such as slot relief, airport and overflight fees reduction,” she added

Related reading: These are the global coronavirus travel restrictions by country

The three alliances represent 60 of the world’s largest airlines, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines in the U.S. The alliances released a joint statement on March 16 asking regulators to suspend slot usage rules for the northern summer 2020 season, as the airlines cut back in service due to coronavirus. In 2003, regulators relaxed the slot rules during the SARS outbreak as well as in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The European Commission on March 10 agreed to suspend strict requirements regarding airport slots in the light of the coronavirus outbreak. However, the commissioner did not specify for how long the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule would be suspended. The statement praises regulators who have acted, but “urge others to follow suit promptly,” and requested that regulators consider extending the suspensions for the entire operating season.

Related reading: United to extend coronavirus-related capacity cuts into summer

Already United announced that it will slash capacity this spring, with cuts likely to extend into summer. American announced on March 14 that it planned to reduce international capacity by 75% year over year, from March 16 to May 6 and would suspend all remaining flights to Asia, except for three flights per week from Dallas (DFW) to Tokyo (NRT). Delta is cutting global capacity by at least 15% following a drop of more than a quarter in bookings worldwide

IATA has estimated up to $ 113 billion in revenue losses for global passenger airlines, the alliances said in the statement, but noted that figure didn’t include travel bans put in place by the U.S. and other countries. The United States last week announced that a ban on travel from Europe, including to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Denmark announced over the weekend that it would close its borders to foreigners for a month while Qatar announced it would also stop all commercial flights into Doha Airport (DOH) starting for two weeks.

Related reading: Coronavirus: Latest news and advice

Featured image courtesy of Zach Griff / The Points Guy

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