Global travel restrictions and a slump in demand due to the pandemic have forced airlines to cancel most flights and temporarily scale down staff.
Passenger numbers and bookings have fallen massively in recent weeks as countries closed their borders and holiday makers cancelled trips amidst the panic.
Ryanair and EasyJet are grounding most of their fleets. EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren also called for government intervention to support the aviation industry. “European aviation faces a precarious future and it is clear that co-ordinated government backing will be required to ensure the industry survives and is able to continue to operate when the crisis is over,” he said.
Virgin Atlantic will cut four-fifths of its flights and has asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave. The company have asked the government for support for the sector, including emergency credit of up to £7.5bn.
BA owner IAG is to cut capacity by 75%.
Norwegian Air has cancelled thousands of flights and will temporarily lay off more than 7,500 staff. Norwegian Air’s temporary reduction in staff numbers will affect pilots, cabin crew and maintenance workers, roughly equalling 90% of its workforce.
Scandinavian airline SAS said it would temporarily halt most of its flights until conditions for commercial aviation improved. As a result, the airline said it would temporarily lay off up to 10,000 employees, or 90% of its workforce.
Holiday company Tui has said it will suspend the “majority” of its operations, affecting “package travel, cruises and hotel” bookings.
Research firm Centre for Aviation now predict that most airlines in the world will be bankrupt by the end of May unless they receive financial support.
“Coordinated government and industry action is needed – now – if catastrophe is to be avoided,” the firm said in a statement. “Demand is drying up in ways that are completely unprecedented. Normality is not yet on the horizon.”
“There is no cash whatsoever coming in the doors,” said aviation analyst John Strickland, who warned that airlines could lose money very quickly, despite such drastic measures.
Mr Strickland described the reduction in airlines’ operations as “stunning”, warning that airlines can lose money “very, very quickly”.
Stemming the loss by cancelling flights and parking aircraft is one thing, he said, “but airlines are both capital and labour intensive so there has to be support of the costs that cannot be avoided even if an airline is grounded”.