Unless you’ve been residing off planet you can’t have failed to have noticed the influence of the COVID-19 outbreak on the world. It’s impacting everyone’s way of life and it’s affecting businesses globally.
Clear efforts to try and contain the virus spreading have been made by the airlines and airports. Over the past week they have been hit by a succession of country “lockdowns” and flight restrictions.
The world gasped at President Trump’s decision to implement a 30-day travel ban on passengers entering the US from 26 European countries. European Union President, Ursula von der Leyen, called for “co-operation rather than unilateral” action, making it clear that the EU was not consulted before Trump’s announcement.
Within Europe, regional and low-cost carriers have released details of a swathe of flight cancellations. Ryanair and Wizz Air have both suspended flights to Poland as the country enters a “lockdown”. The Spanish Government reacted similarly so Buzz and Lauda have severely reduced their flights to and from Spain. Norway has closed its airports as of the 16 March as part of a string of international travel restrictions. Other European nations have been, or will be, following suit.
But looking beyond the virus outbreak, when the world emerges on the other side of COVID-19, how many regional airlines will be left? Many are already struggling with groundings following the Boeing 737 MAX tragedies, and many LCCs have seen their profits tumble.
We ended 2019 with a positive outlook for the summer of 2020. There was potential for the grounding of the MAX to lifted, and things looked set to get back to some normality.
The lives lost in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies will never be forgotten, but emerging from these accidents will be a safer and more rigorously tested commercial aircraft industry. Prior to entering widespread service, new models will be tested like never before.
But nobody could have anticipated the depth and speed of the impact of COVID-19.
Many airports have announced that they will retain operators’ slots at airports to reduce the so-called “ghost flights”, but I fear a lot more will need to be done.
Perhaps it’s time for regional airlines, LCCs and airport managers to work together to develop a plan that works for all so that businesses and passengers remain positive and healthy.