It’s mid-July and most airlines have significantly ramped up capacity since June, with more steps to follow this summer. Yet, traffic is still well below pre-Covid 19 levels.
We bring you an update, with further updates on American Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Vietnam Airlines.
All of International Airlines Group’s (IAG) airlines have increased capacity since June, but still at much-reduced levels. IAG has been very quiet about its recovery plan, but most airlines have ramped-up. The group cut capacity for April and May by 90 percent and plans to return to 55 capacity in Q3.
British Airways is the busiest airline within the group, but behind the scenes, the internal dispute about the restructuring and job cuts has been ongoing now since April. BA plans to cut 12.000 jobs and impose new contracts on those remaining, but no agreement has been reached since the consultation period lapsed on June 15.
BA announced its plan to lay off 12.000 jobs on April 28 but has threatened to add another 19.000 if no deal is reached. It demands staff (most of them in furlough) to sign up to revised contracts that would allow the airline to suspend staff for six weeks a year without paying salaries, which in some cases would lead to a 60 percent pay cut.
Iberia targets an increase to 40 routes in July and 56 in August. Spanish low-cost sister Vueling has increased capacity and has announced an aggressive ramp-up for August at a number of airports in France. This includes 30 new routes.
LEVEL only continues long-haul operations out of Barcelona after its Paris subsidiary ceased trading. (LEVEL)
The victim of the Covid-crisis is low-cost subsidiary LEVEL. Its Vienna-based short-haul affiliate Anisec Luftfahrt has ceased operations as it has been unable to recover from the prolonged groundings since March. In July, the Paris-based long-haul subsidiary Open Skies ceased trading as well as this market segment is in crisis-mode for the foreseeable future. Paris operations were already performing below expectations. For now, LEVEL’s Barcelona operations are unaffected.
IAG will give a trading update later in July, but the Group has deferred all non-essential investments, imposed a hiring freeze, and will reduce capital spending to keep as much cash flow. It has deferred deliveries of 68 aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus.
IAG improved its liquidity position to EUR 9.5 billion. On March 30, it said British Airways extended a revolving credit facility of $1.38 billion for a year until June 2021. IAG expects approval from the Spanish government of a loan and aid package for Iberia and Vueling totaling EUR 1.1 billion.
Group CEO Willie Walsh had planned to retire after the Annual General Meeting on March 26, but will now stay on until the AGM in September. This allows his successor Luis Gallego to concentrate on Iberia for a few months more.
In June, Lufthansa has significantly expanded capacity by operating 2.000 weekly services to 130 destinations. Most are European summer destinations, serving twenty of them from Frankfurt and 34 from Munich. The airline also offers 34 long-haul destinations again or 112 weekly by all group members. This corresponds to 40 percent of the original flight program.
Lufthansa will ramp-up capacity until October to 90 percent short-haul and 70 percent long-haul, bringing another 200 aircraft out of storage for a total of 380 aircraft.
All subsidiaries are now operating again. This includes Austrian Airlines, which resumed services from June 15 after a 90-day grounding. AUA serves 37 destinations and will increase this to 50 in the coming month. From July 1, long-haul services are offered to New York Newark, Chicago, Washington, and Bangkok.
Brussels Airlines too has restarted operations on June 15 and offers 59 destinations and plans to operate at 45 percent capacity in September and October.
Eurowings has added forty destinations to its network and operates twenty aircraft or 30-40 percent of its capacity. The low-cost airline will concentrate on Italy, Greece, Spain, and Croatia in July. By October, Eurowings should be at 80 percent.
SWISS resumed services on 12 European routes from Zurich and 24 from Geneva, with long-haul services to grow from 11 in July to 17 in October, with the first Zurich-Hong Kong on June 4. Edelweiss will fly 171 weekly services to 36 destinations. Air Dolomiti has restarted on June 5 with a number of intra-Italian routes.
Lufthansa Group has completed the EUR 9 billion stabilization package after it received shareholder approval on June 25. This followed on an intense debate with major shareholder Heinz Hermann Thiele, who eventually voted in favor to prevent the airline from filing for administration. The agreement with the German government’s Economic Stabilization Fund will give the federal government a 20 percent stake in the Group.
Part of the restructuring is the reduction of 22.000 jobs, double the number reported earlier. The airline has reached an agreement with cabin crew union Ufo while talks with cockpit crew union Cockpit are progressing well, but negotiations with another cabin crew union ver.di are still ongoing. CEO Carsten Spohr has said on numerous occasions that redundancies could be limited if an agreement is reached on flexible or part-time contracts.
On July 7, Lufthansa Group announced additional restructuring measures. They include a reduction of 1.000 administrative staff, downsizing of the Executive Board with Spohr taking up responsibilities as CFO as well, plus a 20 percent reduction in leadership positions.
The Group will take delivery of only 80 aircraft until 2023 without specifying which types are to be deferred, but the Airbus A320neo-fleet seems the most obvious candidate.
In April, the Swiss parliament approved a proposal from the Federal Council to help SWISS and Edelweiss with a package of state-guaranteed loans worth CHF 1.27 billion or 85 percent of the total CHF 1.5 billion rescue package. The aid is exclusive to the Swiss airlines and can’t be transferred to the parent company Lufthansa.
On June 8, the Austrian government agreed on a EUR 150 million aid package for Austrian that also included 150 million in equity support from Lufthansa plus EUR 300 million in loans from commercial banks.
Air France has increased capacity in June to 20 percent, having operated at just 3-4 percent in April and May. Subject to the lifting of travel restrictions, AF plans to increase this to 35 percent in July, 40 percent in August, 50 in September, and 60 percent in October.
The airline plans to operate to 170 destinations by October or 85 percent of its usual network. In July, the focus is on routes and frequencies within Europe, French Overseas Departments, and domestic routes in France itself but destinations in North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia will be served as well.
AF is operating 106 aircraft in July and 163 by October. In June, the airline early-retired its remaining nine Airbus A380s.
KLM restarted service at low levels on May 4 and since then has increased capacity step by step, at first running a European network with the Cityhopper Embraer fleet and some 737s. Long-haul flights are operated by its 777s while some Airbus A330s have also come out of storage. Three 747-400M-Combi’s have been active since April to ferry medical goods between Amsterdam and Asia.
KLM’s forecast is 5.000 European services in July and 10.000 in August compared to some 1.100 in April, while the long-haul network will grow to 1.900 in July and 2.100 flights in August compared to 612 in April.
Two months after Air France completed its own EUR 7 billion state aid package, the Dutch government agreed on a EUR 3.4 billion package for KLM. This includes a direct loan and stage guaranteed loans. The aid package was approved by the European Commission on July 13. Support is conditional on a 15 percent improvement in the airline’s cost structure that includes pay reductions from both cockpit and cabin crew.
This has met strong opposition from Dutch unions, who claim this condition contravenes collective labor agreements.
KLM will announce a first draft of its restructuring plan by late July, but some 2.000 staff have reportedly signed up for voluntary departure. Air France has already presented a plan to reduce staff numbers by some 7.700 jobs with both the parent airline and HOP.
Both Transavia Netherlands and Transavia France have resumed services, the former on June 4 and the latter on June 15.
Easyjet has deferred deliveries of 32 Airbus A320neo-family aircraft. (Richard Schuurman)
easyjet has resumed limited operations from June 15 and is flying again from 22 airports that include ten major ones in the UK and Northern Ireland. In Europe, services are offered in France (Paris CdG, Nice, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lyon, Lille), Portugal (Lisbon, Porto), Spain (Barcelona), and Switzerland (Geneva). From July 1, the Amsterdam base is back in action too. The network should grow to 35 destinations in August. New biosecurity measures like face masks will be in place for all passengers.
The company will come out of the crisis a much smaller one as it plans to reduce its workforce by thirty percent. It continues to reduce costs on airport operations, maintenance, and marketing, which includes the plan to close its London Stansted and Southend bases.
easyjet expects to operate a fleet of 302 aircraft at the end of FY21, 51 less than originally planned. The reduced fleet reflects fewer deliveries and returns to lessors. It expects to generate GBP 500-650 million in additional funding by sale and leasebacks of an unspecified number of aircraft.
The UK-based airline with subsidiaries in Austria, Switzerland, and Italy has GBP 3.3 billion in cash available, which according to its own scenarios should be sufficient. It successfully issued GBP 600 million of commercial paper through the Covid Corporate Credit Facility, as well as drawing $500 million on its revolving fund facility. It arranged two additional loans worth GBP 400 million by mid-April. Including recent initiatives, easyjet should produce another GBP 2.0 billion in cash.
On June 16, the airline reached an agreement with Airbus about the deferral of deliveries of 24 A320neo-family aircraft by five years until the 2025-2027 timeframe. This is in addition to eight deferred deliveries until 2022.
In May, the aircraft purchase scheme led to a huge rift with easyjet’s founder, Sir Helios. He tried in vain to get the support from other shareholders to block the purchase. On June 30, it was announced that Sir Helios has ended his relationship agreement with easyjet and no longer holds his 30 percent share.
Ryanair has resumed operations again on July 1 but actually was airborne again on June 21 when Spain opened its borders to foreign tourists. It operated services from various of its bases.
Ryanair expects to operate at 40 percent capacity in July and at 60 percent in August. Its Fiscal Year 2021 could see total passenger numbers drop by 50 percent compared to FY20.
The group will reduce its workforce from July onwards by 3.000 cockpit and cabin crew and impose salary cuts or unpaid leave on others. The airline is in negotiations with unions about a restructuring plan that also includes closure of a number of bases until traffic picks up again. The measures include all its subsidiaries like Buzz in Poland, Laudamotion, and Malta Air in Malta.
Ryanair and Austrian union vida fought a hard battle over a 30 percent pay cut for its Laudamotion members. Despite a last-minute agreement, Laudamotion closed its Vienna-base on May 29 and cut 100 positions of staff who have failed to sign the contract. The new pay agreement was also opposed by a majority of Laudamotion captains in Stuttgart, which will lead to the closure of the base from October. This leaves only Dusseldorf, with the position of the base in Palma unclear. Laudamotion will continue to operate as a wet-lease airline to Ryanair.
Part of the restructuring is resizing its fleet. Ryanair is in talks with Boeing to cut deliveries of the MAX 200 for the next two years as well as with lessors about reducing the Airbus-fleet of LaudaMotion.
Ryanair Group has some EUR 4 billion on liquidity, which it thinks is sufficient to cope with the situation until Q2. It hits out to other European airlines which are benefitting from a combined EUR 30 billion in state aid, which according to CEO Michael O’Leary is in breach with EU state aid rules and distorts the landscape.
airBaltic did resume international traffic to the Baltic States from May 18 after the governments relaxed travel restrictions. Destinations include Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Oslo, and Copenhagen, plus another nine popular summer destinations. It already announced 21 new destinations for Summer 2021.
The airline has revised its long-term business plan and now expects to return to its pre-Covid strategy only in 2023. This year and 2021 will be years of only limited operations. It plans to operate a fleet of maximum 50 Airbus A220-300s by 2023. All Boeing 737NGs and Dash 8-400s have been permanently retired.
On July 3, the European Commission approved the Latvian government’s EUR 250 million investment in airBaltic, increasing its share from 80.05 to 91 percent.
On July 13, airBaltic announced a codeshare agreement with Icelandair.
LOT Polish Airlines returned to flying on June 1 as it restarted domestic operations to eight destinations. From July 1, LOT resumed international services to European destinations including the UK, Ukraine, and Albania, with Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Croatia, and Bulgaria to follow.
Long-haul services to Toronto, Seoul, and Tokyo have also resumed in the first week of July.
The airline had been grounded since March 14 after the government imposed a ban on all air travel.
As the impact of the Covid-crisis became more apparent, LOT withdrew its plan to purchase Condor, the German subsidiary of Thomas Cook that continued operations after TC went bankrupt. LOT had planned to make Condor its leisure airline but has been unable to make this investment. By early June, LOT itself was in negotiations with the Polish government about additional state funding.
German leisure airline Condor resumed services on June 25, offering services to 29 summer destinations. It already announced its 2021 schedule to 32 destinations.
In April, the airline has been bailed out by the German federal and Hessen state government. They injected EUR 294 million in loans and EUR 256 million for refinancing an earlier bridging loan that was provided after Thomas Cook went bankrupt in 2019. Condor was set to be taken over by LOT Polish Airline until Covid-19 threw that plan out of the window. The German governments pledged their support as they see Condor as an operationally healthy airline before Covid-19.
SAS is back in action since June, initially offering services to 25 destinations by using 30 aircraft and adding another 10 aircraft in July to bring capacity back to 30 percent compared to last year. Copenhagen remains the most important airport, from where SAS offers services to three cities within the US. Stockholm and Oslo have also seen a ramp-up of (international) services as restrictions in Norway have been relaxed.
On June 30, SAS announced a recapitalization and refunding plan that includes SEK 12 billion in new funding and restore equity to 14.25 billion. The airline planned to raise SEK 3.9 billion in a rights issue of common stock, SEK 6.0 billion in new hybrid notes and covert some SEK 3.7 billion of notes into common stock. SAS planned to save SEK 4.0 billion in costs, including the reduction of 5.000 positions and the renegotiating of collective agreements.
While the Swedish and Danish governments support the package, noteholders have been unwilling to accept the conversion of notes to shares. A meeting scheduled for July 17 has been postponed.
Job reductions include 1.900 full-time positions in Sweden, 1.700 in Denmark, and 1.300 in Norway. On January 1, SAS had 10.445 full-time employees, so this restructuring means and almost 50 percent reduction.
Virgin Atlantic announced a GBP 1.2 billion recapitalization plan on July 14 that should help it restore its balance sheet and return to profitability in 2022. The airline has funded the plan without government aid but with the help of existing shareholders (Virgin Group and Delta Airlines) as well as a new shareholder.
In May, Virgin said it would cut 3.150 jobs but this has now increased to 3.550 within the airline and holiday group.
Earlier this Spring, Virgin sought GBP 500 million in government loans but without success. Founder Sir Richard Branson even offered the airline for sale as is struggles to attract fresh equity. He said on April 20 that Virgin will not survive without state aid. Branson insists Virgin will repay the loan: “It will not be free money.” Earlier, Branson offered to provide GBP 250 million in liquidity to Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin will resume operations on July 20, offering services to New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. It had reduced capacity by 85 percent in April and May and operated a fair number of cargo-only flights.
Norwegian has resumed UK-services from July, offering London Gatwick to Oslo seven times a week, London Gatwick to Copenhagen six times, and Edinburgh to Olso and Copenhagen twice a week each. From April, Norwegian has only maintained a very limited schedule within Norway and Scandinavia using just eight aircraft. Another 12 will now join the active fleet to be used on 76 European routes that include key cities and popular summer destinations in Greece and Spain.
Norwegian said on May 28 that it has successfully completed its financial restructuring plan that was announced in April. It has converted NOK 12.7 billion of debt into equity and secured NOK 400 million in cash through a public offering. This was conditional to the full NOK 3.0 billion state aid package from the Norwegian government which has been paid since. The airline also improved its equity ratio to 17 percent, well over the targeted minimal of eight percent.
Norwegian has also reduced its lease payments by $250-285 million by securing sale and leasebacks for a number of aircraft.
In Q1, Norwegian posted a net loss before tax of NOK -3.281 billion compared to -19.77 billion last year. Revenues were NOK 6.505 billion compared to 7.991 billion. In Q2, the airline has cut its network by 95 percent and operates only a skeleton domestic network with seven aircraft in Norway. This situation could continue until early 2021.
Around 7.650 staff have been temporarily laid off, but Norwegian hopes to hire them back again as soon as the situation has improved. It filed for bankruptcy for two of its cockpit and cabin crew units in Sweden and Denmark on April 20, which affects some 4.700 staff.
Icelandair still has not finalized its reorganization plan that includes a reduction of 2.000 out of some 4.600 jobs within the leisure group. With salaries the main cost, there is no other option than to reduce these expenditures. Remaining fulltime staff will have to accept a pay cut or work part-time.
The Group hoped to secure backing by early June, but strong opposition from its cabin crew members and unions have delayed this. On May 15, it reached a new collective bargaining agreement with its pilots that runs until October 2025, with a similar agreement with technicians until January 2026. The Icelandic Cabin Crew Association declined the offer on July 8. Icelandair will explore ‘alternative options’ for its restructuring plan.
On July 13, Icelandair announced a codeshare agreement with airBaltic.
Finnair has opened up its borders to selective European countries on July 13 as well as work-related travel from its key markets in Asia and the Pacific. As a result, the airline has ramped-up capacity to 30 destinations in Europe as well as re-opening long-haul routes to Asia again. This includes Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong but also key-routes to Japan (Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo Narita) plus Singapore and Bangkok. From August, Tokyo Haneda, Delhi, and New York will be added. The domestic network will see 70-80 daily services in July.
Through a rights offering, Finnair has secured EUR 512 million in additional capital. Earlier, the said it expects to lose some EUR 2 million a day in Q2 and has ready a number of scenarios on how to resume operations. The airline had EUR 833 million in cash available at the end of Q1 but could tap into additional funds by unlocking a EUR 600 million pension premium loan or offering its fleet for sale and leaseback.
Finnair plans to take delivery of new A350’s as planned for this and the next two years but as it will revise its strategy a decision on new short-haul aircraft is to be deferred.
Alitalia will receive EUR 3.5 billion in state aid from the Italian government to keep the airline going despite its poor state. After Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit hard by Covid-19, the airline was forced to reduce its activities to just a selection of repatriation flights to bring Italians home.
Until late March it operated on a limited schedule which includes two daily services to New York and London. Under a government decree, the airline also operates at least one daily service to most domestic airports.
From July, Alitalia has planned 1.000 weekly flights on 52 routes to 37 destinations, 19 in Italy, and 18 in Europe and the US (New York, Boston). That is 60 percent more flights than in June. Alitalia will concentrate its ramp-up at Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino.
The number will increase to 1.600 in August
Wizz had been operating at just three percent capacity for most of April and May but has aggressive ramped-up from July 1. It has based five aircraft at Milan Malpensa and opened up twenty routes, positioned three aircraft at Tirana (Albania) to operate fifteen routes, two aircraft at Larnaca (Cyprus) for 11 routes, and one aircraft in Lviv (Ukraine) for the operation of five new routes. More new bases were announced from mid-June, like Bacau (Romania) with two aircraft from October, Saint Petersburg (Russia) from September with one aircraft, and the reopening of four bases in Central and Eastern Europe.
Wizz has implemented a raft of cost-cutting measures, including a spending cut, voluntary leave, and the management foregoing payment until late April. It has laid off 1.000 positions, 19 percent of its total workforce. The lease of 32 Airbus A320ceo’s will not be renewed from FY2023. By late March, Wizz had a EUR 1.5 billion cash buffer. Wizz said on April 14 it had lost EUR 70-80 million in revenues in its Q4-period, resulting in a lower full-year profit of EUR 270-280 million.
In a webinar on May 26, CEO Jozsef Varadi said he expects Wizz to recover from the crisis within a year. He is seeing strong demand with passengers who want to fly again.
With Russia announcing a ban on all air travel from March 26, Aeroflot has been operating mostly domestic services and a very limited international schedule. In June, the airline has gradually resumed operations, especially through its Pobeda domestic subsidiary which has been flying most of May again.
Aeroflot has implemented large-scale cost-saving measures, including cuts in management and slashing capacity. It has re-deployed a number of passenger wide-body aircraft to cargo-only flights.
TAP Portugal is operating at a much-reduced schedule. From March, the airline has gone in survival mode by cutting costs where possible and placing 90 percent of its staff on furlough. TAP will reduce its fleet by six aircraft over the year to cut capacity, which was down -99 percent in April and -98 percent in May.
Late June, the European Commission approved an EUR 1.2 billion rescue loan that provides the airline with liquidity. The government also wants to place TAP under a protective measure that – if needed – summons the airline to operate a minimum of 80 percent of flights to Oporto airport. The government has also been in negotiating with private shareholders about a change to the indirect shareholding structure of TAP.
Disinfecting aircraft has reached new levels in the Covid-19 era. This is on a Delta Boeing 757. (Delta Airlines)
US airlines have been granted $25 billion in payroll support from the Department of Treasury. This should help them to support salaries during the current Covid-19 period until September. The Department of Treasury released details of the distribution of the Payroll Support Program on April 14, with funds coming from the Corona Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act.
American Airlines was the first to announce it will get $5.8 billion, of which 4.1 billion in a direct grant and the remaining 1.7 billion in loan guarantees. The airline expects to receive $4.75 billion in a separate loan with the Treasury.
United Airlines said on April 20 it expects $5.0 billion in aid under PSP, of which 1.5 billion will be a 10-year loan. It submitted an application for a $4.5 billion loan under the CARES act.
Delta will get $5.4 billion and has received already 2.7 billion of this. The airline is also eligible for $4.6 billion in loan guarantees but Delta will decide in September if it will need this or cover its liquidity requirements from other sources.
Southwest will receive $3.2 billion, of which 900 million in loan guarantees. Alaska, Frontier, Allegiant, JetBlue, Hawaiian, and Skywest will also benefit from PSP.
The Department of Transportation denied requests from JetBlue and Spirit to suspend services until further notice. Both airlines need to maintain their schedules to nine and 25 destinations respectively.
American Airlines has given notices to 25.000 employees about potential furloughs and job reductions from October 1, when restrictions on job cuts from the CARES program will no longer apply. AA hopes to significantly reduce furloughs through early-retirement and enhanced leave programs, it said on July 15. Notices include 9.950 cabin crew, 2.500 pilots, 4.500 fleet service staff, and 3.200 staff in maintenance and related positions. The airline hopes to extend any involuntary furloughs until April 1, 2021, when it hopes air travel will have recovered more. However, it is inevitable that AA will come out of the Covid-crisis much smaller, CEO Doug Parker writes in his letter to staff.
American has increased capacity in July on its domestic network to 55 percent, up from just 20 percent in May. The airline has seen a significant increase in demand in May. In response, frequencies from its Dallas Fort Worth and Charlotte hubs to major cities in Florida and the Gulf Coast will be increased.
The international network is lagging behind at 20 percent capacity in July, but here too AA is ramping up again. From June 4, it resumed eight international routes from DFW to Amsterdam, Paris, and Frankfurt and from Miami to Antigua, Guayaquil, and Quito. From Chicago and New York JFK, flights have resumed to London Heathrow.
Services from Philadelphia and Charlotte have been delayed until August.
American will early retire its Embraer E190s, Boeing 757 and 767s, Airbus A330-300s, and Bombardier CRJ200s.
On June 21, AA announced the offering of a combined $1.5 billion in common stocks and convertible senior notes due 2025 to improve its liquidity position. The airline also secured a new $500 million loan facility due 2024.
United too has increased capacity but still expects levels to be down in July by -75 percent compared to last year. This compares to -88 percent in June. Forecasts for August are -65 percent.
The grounding of most of its fleet cost United some $100 million in revenues per day, it said on April 3. This should be reduced to $40 million in Q2 and $30 million in Q3 as it embarked on a cost-cutting program that also slashes $2.5 billion in Capex.
On July 7, management notified staff of involuntary furloughs that could include 36.000 employees after October, when the prohibition on furloughs included in the CARES program ends. Almost half of the redundancies are expected with cabin crew. Over 20.000 staff are on voluntary furlough.
By the end of May, United said it had $9.6 billion in cash available. On June 17, the airline reported this will be bolstered to a total of $17 billion by September by securing a $5 billion loan on its loyalty program MileagePlus, plus $4.5 billion in loans from the CARES relief program covered by its slots, gates, and routes. United secured $1 billion under a revolving credit facility on July 2.
In April, Hong Hong-based lessor BOC Aviation reached an agreement with United on a sale and leaseback of 6 Boeing 787-9s and 16 MAX 9s.
Delta restarted three international operations on June 4, offering Atlanta to London Heathrow again and New York JFK to Amsterdam and Tel Aviv. In May, the airline had announced a gradual increase of its schedule saying it would offer services again to all major destinations from June. This includes Amsterdam, although London, Paris, and Frankfurt will not have daily flights. Also ramped up are services to Mexico, Seoul, Shanghai, the Caribbean, and Central America as well as Canada.
From June 25, Delta will resume twice-weekly services from Seattle to Shanghai via Seoul Pudong and once a week to Seoul from Detroit and Seattle.
Delta has parked some 650 aircraft. It retired its final MD-88s and -90s on June 2 but also announced the early-retirement of some Boeing 757s, 767s, and all eighteen 777-200ERs before the end of the year. This despite the 777s have received an extensive cabin make-over of late. Deliveries of some new aircraft have been deferred.
Delta has bolstered its cash position to $15,7 billion, up from 14 billion previously announced. Cash burn has been reduced from $43 to 27 million per day by the end of June. In a letter to staff, CEO Ed Bastian warned on June 19 that this situation is unsustainable that equates to $1 billion per month. Delta has cut CAPEX by $3 billion this year. Some 40.000 employees have accepted voluntary unpaid leave. Bastian will forgo his salary for six months, with officers taking a 50 percent pay cut and managing directors and directors 25.
Alaska Airlines has ramped-up services in June, having cut capacity by -80 percent in April and May when it parked 156 mainline aircraft. Like many US airlines, Alaska has blocked middle seats and introduces strict safety and hygiene measures that include the compulsory use of face masks.
Jetblue expanded its network from mid-June again by offering 30 additional routes across the US but most of them on the East coast as it has seen small signs of recovery. In between these uncertain times, the airline moved all its flights at Long Beach base to Los Angeles International.
After Covid hit the US, Jetblue quickly revised its schedules to reduce costs, especially in Q2. This including a reduction in Capex by deferring new deliveries and updates to cabins, and reducing all non-essential expenditures.
Jetblue received $936 million in payroll support and applied for a $1.14 billion loan. It ended Q1 with $1.8 billion in unrestricted cash.
Air Canada has reduced its Q2-capacity by 85 to 90 percent and placed 15.200 employees on off duty status plus 1.300 managers on furlough. It will cut some 20.000 positions through furlough, severances, early retirements, and special leaves.
It expects to reduce capacity in July by -75 percent. As demand remains weak, the airline has suspended services on 30 domestic routes until further notice and closed eight stations at regional airports.
he airline has identified $1.1 billion in cost savings by deleting all non-necessary spending, deferring investments, and retiring 79 older Boeing 767s, Airbus A319s, and Embraer E190s with Air Canada and Rouge. The Q1-update published on May 4 didn’t include any details on the deferral of deliveries of 17 Airbus A220s and six Boeing MAX 8s.
On June 2, Air Canada reported it had raised $1.6 billion through the issuing of shares to strengthen its working capital or $5.5 billion since March.
From July, Westjet will offer services to 45 destinations again, which include 39 in Canada, five in the US, and one in Mexico. This means the Canadian airline operates at 24 percent capacity compared to July last year. It suspended all its transborder US and Hawaiian plus international services from March 22.
On June 24, WestJet announced organizational changes that include the consolidation if its call center in Alberta, contracting out at all domestic airports, and the restructuring of office and management. This affects some 3.300 staff. Earlier, the company negotiated a restructuring plan with pilots union ALPA that saves 1.000 jobs out of 1.700.
Canada’s Air Transat will resume services from July 23, offering flights to 20 destinations in the US, Europe, and Canada until October 31. The schedule could change for September and October, depending on demand. The plan was to resume operations from June 1 but this has been delayed twice.
Air Transat continued to operate a range of repatriation flights until April 1. As a consequence of the Covid-crisis, the airline has retired its Airbus A310s from service.
Emirates will bring its first A380 back into service from July 15.
Turkish Airlines has resumed operations to 19 destinations from June, having suspended all international operations from March 27. Domestic operations were at 60 percent capacity but will increase as demands will go up.
On June 18, Turkish became the first airline to operate 400 flights on a single day since March 24. Turkish hopes to offer 99 destinations by September again.
Emirates has extended its international network from June 15 and more since July 7, after the UAE government relaxed travel restrictions to visitors and tourists. The airline has gradually increased the number of destinations to 52 on all continents by mid-July.
Until mid-July, all services have been operated by the airline’s Boeing 777s but from July 15 Emirates will gradually phase in some of its 114-strong Airbus A380-fleet. London Heathrow and Paris are served first, followed by Amsterdam and a second rotation to Heathrow from August 1.
The A380s were grounded on March 25 after the government forced all UAE-airlines to suspend operations for at least two weeks. Only cargo services were retained, which SkyCargo operates by using 11 full freighters and 85 777-300ERs from the passenger fleet. Interestingly, all cargo flights are operated out of DXB, although DWC is the regular airport for cargo services and has a vast infrastructure for this.
The slow recovery that might take up to four years has come at a price for the airline’s workforce. Some 9.000 staff are said to become redundant, with the first waves of redundancies already made in June and mid-July. Especially hit hard are cockpit and cabin crew working on the A380 as the majority of the fleet remains grounded.
During a webinar, President Tim Clark said that his airline is not in a position now to buy new aircraft now, hinting at deferral of outstanding orders with Airbus (50 A350-900s and 8 A380s) and Boeing (30 787-9s and 115 777X). In July, he said Emirates might consider swapping more 777X for 787s.
Emirates’ little sister airline flydubai has resumed passenger services on July 8, with the first flight arriving from Kiev. This followed a day after the UAE government relaxed travel restrictions. Initially, flydubai will offer services to 24 destinations.
Like the other airlines in the UAE, flydubai suspended all flights from March 24. The airline was allowed to fly repatriation services and has done 23 by April 8. The airline also used its 737-800s for cargo-only flights, most of them in the Middle East.
Staff will have a three-month pay cut until July in order to curb expenses.
Etihad intends to increase capacity to up to 58 destinations in August, the result of the relaxations announced on July 7 and June 10 when transit flights via Abu Dhabi were allowed. Routes include those to Europe, North-America, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.
Etihad hopes to be back at some 40 percent capacity by July 16, CEO Tony Douglas told CNN. Like Emirates, Etihad resumed limited passenger flights from April 5 after a two-week grounding. Initially, these were limited to Melbourne, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, and Amsterdam the only destination in Europe. By April 24, Etihad added more destinations to this network for the May schedule that include Frankfurt, Brussels, Barcelona, Chicago, Singapore, and Tokyo. In addition, the airline runs cargo-only flights.
The airline will make job cuts in all departments, Douglas said, without specifying numbers. Numerous pilots have been notified of contract termination. Reuters reported on May 21 that Etihad might ground its ten A380s permanently and was seeking cancelation of its outstanding A350-1000 order. This hasn’t been confirmed.
Air Arabia too has resumed operations, after it suspended all flights from March 24. It only operated a limited number of outbound passenger and cargo flights to destinations in the Middle East, India, Afghanistan, and Nepal. The airline will reduce its workforce to cope with the revised business outlook, but hasn’t specified numbers. Air Arabia reportedly cut 57 jobs in May.
From July 14, its new subsidiary Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has started operations, offering first services to Alexandria and Sohag in Egypt in a codeshare with Etihad. The new low-cost intends to capture a significant slice of the Arabian market.
On the 15th, Air Arabia will resume operations to Marocco and some destinations in Europe.
Royal Jordanian remains grounded until July 24, having delayed its plans numerous times since May. The airline has been grounded since March 17 and hoped to be flying again on June 14.
Qatar has rebuilt its network to more than 65 destinations and 430 weekly flights by mid-July. Destinations include Singapore, Bangkok, Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi, Barcelona, and Vienna. New York, Berlin, Venice, Tunis, Dar es Salaam were served from mid-June, while Milan, Rome, and Dublin will see frequencies increased to daily.
The important US market will be served by 39 weekly flights from August again.
Qatar closed the country for non-Qatari nationals for two weeks from March 18, while anyone entering the country must go in a 14-day quarantine period. This made Qatar Airways, even more, a transit-airline to and from Doha.
By mid-March, Qatar Airways aggressively increased capacity to London, Frankfurt, and Perth by adding an A380 to the schedule. The A380’s were replaced by smaller aircraft from early March. In an interview in mid-May, CEO Akbar Al Baker hinted at a prolonged or even permanent grounding of the A380-fleet. In an interview with FlightGlobal on June 18, he said the A380 is expected to remain grounded until the summer 2021 schedule, with only seven of its ten aircraft to be returned to service.
Akbar Al Baker said to Reuters on March 29 that Qatar has sufficient liquidity to survive the crisis for a few more weeks, but will have to draw onto government aid if the situation continues longer. It traded seven Boeing 787-9s for $850 million in cash by mid-April.
Gulf Air is still operating to a limited schedule, but has been flying again to London Heathrow, Paris, and Frankfurt in Europe, the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, Greece, and the UAE.
The airline of Bahrain had suspended most services from March 18 but operated repatriation services for Bahraini nationals in mid-April. It plans to increase its services to Pakistan in the coming days.
Kuwait Airways/Jazeera Airways:
The national airline of Kuwait has suspended all services from March 13 and expects to resume services from August 1. This followed a decree issued by the government that locks down the country to foreign visitors. It did operate a number of repatriation services.
As a result, low-cost airline Jazeera Airways also suspended all services but resumed services in June to the UK, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran. Next is Qatar from June 24, Iraq from June 27, and the UAE, Egypt, India, and Georgia from June 30.
Saudia has resumed a significant number of domestic and international services since May 15 after the airline was grounded for weeks from March 21. From late May, it also resumed services to Paris, Amsterdam, and Dubai and will add Manchester to the schedule from mid-July.
Israels El Al extended the suspension of flights until July 31. It had planned to operate a limited schedule in June, offering flights on selected dates to New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London only. Following further assessment, this plan has been modified.
Israel has been hit by a second wave of corona that has restricted all operations within the country. Not helpful is a conflict with cockpit and cabin crew over restructuring measures.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi:
Amidst a weak travel market, new low-cost airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi announced it will start operations with two aircraft from October 1, increasing the fleet to six within the following months. The new low-cost airline will initially offer six routes to Alexandria, Athens, Odesa, Kutaisi, Yerevan, and Larnaca.
Cathay Pacific has been hit extremely hard by the impact of Covid-19. (Cathay Pacific)
The region has suffered since the first outbreak of Covid-19 in China in January, when air travel in China and Asia Pacific came to an almost standstill for a number of weeks. As the virus was more or less under control in China, air travel rebounded in May and June but still remains weak.
Airlines dependent on long-haul services have been particularly hit hard, with no immediate signs of recovery. Trade tensions are not helpful in this as well.
The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) imposed restrictions on international passenger flights from March 29, limiting Chinese and international airlines to one flight per carrier per week. Cargo services were not included in this ruling, resulting in a surge in cargo services to Europe from April onwards.
A rise in corona cases in Beijing in early June has resulted in the closure of some airports and hence a reduction of operations again. Also, US President Trump announced a ban on Chinese airlines coming into the US following a similar and earlier announcement by the Chinese government as the US-China trade dispute continues. France followed in July.
Japan’s All Nippon Airways continues to suspend most of its international routes, operating in July at only 9 percent. It offers limited services on 19 routes to London, Mexico, Chicago, Sydney, Jakarta, Hanoi. ANA revised its schedule again from July 14 after new immigration restrictions have been applied in the Philippines, while ANA continues the suspension to selected destinations in China and the US, and Europe until August 31.
ANA reported a Yen 27.655 billion net income for FY19, down 75 percent from last year. The operating income was -63.2 percent to Yen 60.806 billion while revenues were -4.1 percent to Yen 1.974,2 billion. Especially Q4 was impacted by the Covid-19 crisis with revenues down on average by -4.2 percent.
All Nippon has suspended its FY20 guidance. It has borrowed Yen 100 billion to improve liquidity and has secured a new credit facility of Yen 350 billion, in addition to an existing facility of Yen 150 billion.
Japan Airlines has gradually increased services again after the government lifted the state of emergency on June 19. Domestic services have recovered to 35 percent but were impacted by the heavy storms that hit southern Japan. JAL plans to increase domestic capacity to 91 percent in August.
International services have also resumed but at reduced capacity. In August, capacity to Europe will be down by -76 percent, to the Americas by -82 percent, to Southeast Asia by -82 percent, while services to Oceania continue to be suspended by -100 percent.
JAL reported an FY19 profit of Yen 53.4 billion on April 30 compared to 150.8 billion the previous year. Revenues were down to Yen 1.411 billion from 1.487. The impact of Covid-19 was felt in the last two months of the fiscal year when Japan went into a state of emergency and air travel was discouraged. Domestic traffic was -55 percent, international -70 percent, and revenues ended up at Yen -19.5 billion instead of +19.8 billion as was expected.
JAL bolstered its liquidity position by Yen 57.7 billion but still plans to continue its share repurchase program. The airline plans to reduce revenue and capacity-related costs by 40 percent and fixed costs by Yen 60 billion. Capex will be reduced by Yen 150 million.
Virgin Australia filed for voluntary administration on April 21 after it failed to get a $1.4 billion in government aid it requested a couple of weeks earlier. After a selection process under the administrators from Deloitte, Bain Capital came out as the preferred bidder but its proposal but this has been objected by bondholders. They have tried to organize a bid themselves but on July 15 said they would forego on this.
Virgin Australia has cut domestic capacity by 90 percent by suspending operations to 19 destinations until June 14. This leaves 17 routes open. Its subsidiary Tigerair Australia has suspended all domestic flights with immediate effect from March 25.
By early August, VAH plans to operate on 30 domestic routes again for which a significant number of parked aircraft will return to service.
The Hong Kong-airline continues to be hit extremely hard by the Covid-19 crisis. With its long-haul market almost non-existent, most of its fleet remains grounded. In May, Cathay has been operating at just 2.5 percent capacity in May, even below April’s 3.0 percent. Its March traffic dropped by 90 percent, in April pax numbers were down -64 percent.
In May, RPKs were down -99.1 percent compared to last year. This confirms Cathay is still very much in deep trouble as the main airline lacks a domestic network and is dependent on the lifting of international travel restrictions. Cathay has resumed some international services, like that to Frankfurt on July 13.
CEO Ronald Lam said on June 12 his airline will re-evaluate its business model that will result in a recommendation for the optimum size and shape of the new Cathay. Expect some heavy reductions here.
On June 9, Cathay announced it had secured HK$ 39 billion for its recapitalization plan that includes the issuance of preference shares and warrants for a total of HK$21.5 billion, 11.7 billion in rights issues, and HK$7.8 billion in bridge loans.
As a result of the capitalization, the Swire Group will increase its share from 42.26 to 45 percent, Air China from 28.17 to 29.99 percent, Qatar Airways from 9.38 to 9.99 percent, and other shareholders from 14.11 to 15.02 percent. Aviation 2020 Limited will lose its 6.08 percent share.
On July 13, a majority of 99,95 percent of shareholders supported the recapitalization plan.
Airlines in India have resumed domestic services from May 25 after the government relaxed restrictions. International services were set to follow from June 1, but the Indian government extended the ban.
Most Indian airlines like IndiGo, Go Air, Spicejet, and Air India had hoped to resume operations from May 4 in a phased manner but restrictions were extended again. India has been in a lockdown from April that has limited airlines to cargo-only flights.
In May, the government put Air India up for sale but the process has been suspended
Vietnam Airlines resumed domestic services to ten destinations in June and July but continues its suspension of international flights. Hit by Covid-19 itself, Vietnam has imposed a ban on travel in March that made operations impossible. The airline only operated a selection of repatriation flights.
The airline’s CEO has warned that the airline will be in urgent need of liquidity by August.
Air New Zealand:
Air New Zealand resumed most domestic operations from May 18 after the country’s alert level was relaxed, but following new cases of Covid-19 new restrictions were imposed again. This has impacted incoming international traffic, with no flights possible between Melbourne and New Zealand until July 14. Just before the latest restrictions came into effect, ANZ had seen a surge in demand for air tickets, although this still fairs poorly against pre-Covid levels.
Qantas and Jetstar have increased domestic schedules in June and July from 5 percent capacity to 15 percent, offering 300 weekly return flights again. Once restrictions from various states will be relaxed, the capacity could go up to 40 percent. By early July, new cases of corona were identified in Melbourne which have restricted services.
Qantas’ International network continues to operate at just 1 percent and it is expected to continue until October. The airline expects long-haul traffic to recover only significantly by mid-2021. As a result, it will continue to ground some 100 aircraft until next June/July. Its 12-strong Airbus A380 fleet has entered deep storage until at least 2023.
With operations still significantly below the pre-crisis levels, Qantas continues to stand down most of its employees until further notice. The Group announced 6.000 redundancies in June. Qantas bolstered its liquidity position by securing another $550 million against three Boeing 787-9s. This is additional to the $1.05 billion credit facility announced on March 25 by providing seven 787-9s as a guarantee.
It raised $1.9 billion through a fully underwritten institutional placement and a share purchase plan. Before the issuance, Qantas had $4.6 billion in liquidity available.
Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Silk Air have slightly increased the number of destinations served in June and July, having operated at just 4 percent capacity since April. This now becomes 6 percent. Reinstated services include Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Christchurch, and Auckland, Hong Kong, Medan, Cebu, and Osaka, as well as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Barcelona. These are additional to the very limited schedule flown in May.
During April and May, SIA and Silk Air have grounded 138 of 147 aircraft, with Scoot 47 of 49. This includes six A380s stored in Alice Springs.
On June 8, SIA reported it has raised $8.8 billion in fresh liquidity through a recent rights issue while raising $900 million in long term loans secured against some Airbus A350-900s and Boeing 787-10s. Another $500 million is available through new credit facilities arranged with banks which are additional to 1.7 billion in unused facilities. If necessary, SIA can raise another $6.2 billion in liquidity with mandatory bonds.
In March, the group announced it had offered shareholders new equity of S5.3 billion and issued convertible bonds worth $9.7 billion, while at the same time finalizing a $4 billion bridge loan with DBS Bank.
SIA’s major shareholder Temasek has supported the package and also has subscribed to the airline’s transformation plan, which includes the fleet renewal plan. This is good news to Boeing and Airbus, as it seems to guarantee the order for the MAX, 787s, 777X, and A350s, although in an investor’s filing on April 24 SIA said it is in the process of renegotiating terms and delivery dates.
Air Mauritius filed for voluntary administration on April 22 as it has been severely impacted by travel restrictions. As the airline is highly dependent on tourism, is has seen no other option than to take this step. Air Mauritius was already in a restructuring program since early this year. It has extended the grounding until August 31.
Avianca became the first Latin American airline to file for Chapter 11. LATAM and Aeromexico have followed. (Avianca)
Many countries in South America closed their borders in April or imposed travel restrictions, but the was before the serious wave of the coronavirus hit the continent. As a result, air travel has felt the impact of a huge reduction in demand and caused major airlines to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Avianca Holdings was the first to file for voluntary administration with a New York-court on May 10. It plans to restructure its debt and airlines under US Chapter 11-legislation but will continue to operate while Avianca Peru has ceased operations. A number of aircraft have been returned to lessors.
Early April, Avianca suspended all international and domestic flights in Colombia. The airline followed the path of other airlines by offering staff voluntary leave of its 21. 000 staff, cost-cutting of all non-essential measures, and a hiring freeze.
Chapter 11 is the best option to protect the essential air travel and air transport services, its CEO Anko van der Werff said.
LATAM Airlines Group was next to opt for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 26. With the support of its two family-shareholders and Qatar Airways, the airline intends to restructure and recapitalize.
LATAM has been hit hard by the travel restrictions imposed by most countries in South America. It has cut capacity on its international network by 95 percent and on domestic operations by 40 percent. It will continue to operate under Chapter 11.
LATAM Argentina was excluded from the restructuring plan but it was announced on June 17 that it has ceased operations with immediate effect. Early July, LATAM Brazil also filed for Chapter 11, leaving only the Paraguay branch outside bankruptcy protection.
Aeromexico became the third Latin-American airline to file for Chapter 11 on June 30, also citing the severity of the crisis for the reason of the step. In May, domestic traffic was down by over -92 percent and international by -98 percent. The airline continues to operate but will likely return a fair number of aircraft to lessors.
Brazil’s GOL increased capacity in June to 120 flights a day using 27 of its 130 aircraft. This corresponds to 17 percent capacity. This is expected to increase to 25 percent by late July, when 36 aircraft are active and 14 bases will have been re-opened.
In HY1, GOL returned 11 Boeing 737NGs to lessors, with another seven to leave the fleet by the end of the year. Another 30 eligible for FY21-22.
In view of the expected reduction in future demand for air travel, GOL has canceled 34 Boeing MAX 8s on order.
Net cash burn for June excluding revenues was R$ 2 million a day. Including sales and receipts, and debt payments, this will be $10 million per day. GOL intends to keep staff costs at 40-50 percent of pre-crisis levels and for this has signed agreements with some 13.600 ground staff and cabin crew out of 16.000 employees. By late June, the airline had R$3.3 billion in liquidity available.
South African Airways:
After months of difficult negotiations, South African Airways is about to execute a painful restructuring plan that should safeguard the future of the airline, albeit in a much-reduced size. The plan filed by two administrators is based on a Rand 26.7 billion restructuring that includes the loss of up to 3.700 out of 4.700 jobs during the first phase of restarting until January 2021. Staff numbers could grow from an initial 1.000 to 2.900 once the airline succeeds in demonstrating growth.
The government called upon cockpit crew to support the plan and resist attempts by the pilot’s union SAAPA to implement a less painful restructuring, qualifying the attempt as ‘misleading.’ According to the government, there is no alternative to the rescue plan.
The resized SAA will operate a fleet of just 26 aircraft, including seven for long-haul services. In mid-July, fourteen aircraft left the fleet and were returned to lessors, including two Airbus A350-900s that had joined SAA only last January.
SAA filed for voluntary administration after the government announced it was unable and unwilling to bail out the airline. Already troubled for years, SAA has been fighting for her existence in recent months but now Covid-19 could deal the airline a fatal blow. The two administrators have been working on a plan on June 8.
Ethiopian has resumed limited operations from June and July as more countries relaxed restrictions. The airline returned to Dubai in July 8 and will fly again to Djibouti from July 17, bringing total services to 40.
Before the lifting of restrictions, Ethiopian concentrated on cargo-only flights since then, shipping medical supplies.
Kenya Airways plans to resume operations from July 15 having suspended all international flights from March 25. This follows on a government directive to ban all incoming international passenger flights.
The schedule from July 15 includes Mombasa and Kisumu, but most destinations within Africa will only be served from August 1. The same applies to those in Europe and the US.
IATA reported an average worldwide -91.3 percent drop in RPKs in May, a slight improvement over the -94.3 percent in April. The Middle East and Africa were affected the most by -97.9 percent. International travel was down -98.3 percent compared to -98.4 percent April, with domestic showing an improvement to -79.2 percent compared to -86.9 percent in April. Domestic China was showing the best performance at -49.9 percent, with Australia down -96.6 percent.
Asia/Pacific is set to become the region that will suffer most from Covid-19, IATA predicts. Airlines could see $29 billion losses as demand will recover to only 53.9 percent compared to 2019.
On June 1, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council approved a comprehensive framework of temporary measures for a safe restoration of airline operations. ICAO and IATA called upon governments to adopt the ‘Takeoff’-roadmap so airlines can prepare to restart services.
Proposed measures include physical distancing where feasible or adequate risk-based measures, the wearing of face masks onboard aircraft, routine sanitation and disinfection, health screening and contact tracing, health declaration forms, and testing.
“This layering of measures should give travelers and crew the confidence they need to fly again. And we are committed to working with our partners to continuously improve these measures as medical science, technology, and the pandemic evolve,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.