Winter will be hard for air transport, already touched by a meager summer

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Winter will be hard for air transport, already touched by a meager summer




A female passenger wearing a mask at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, on October 14, 2020


© John Macdougall
A female passenger wearing a mask at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, on October 14, 2020


The resumption of air traffic in autumn has not been as expected. Before the harsh winter, airlines ask for help, cut costs or cut jobs to survive COVID-19.

“We are in a race against time. The variable is cash, companies die for cash […] You have to go fast, very very fast “, estimates Stéphane Albernhe, managing partner at Archery Strategy Consulting.

The winter season, which begins on October 25 and ends at the end of March, will in all probability be very bad for air travel.

With revenues falling in the first half of nearly 80% compared to the previous year, airline boxes continued to be emptied to finance high fixed costs, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA, for its acronym in English). ).


A board displays flights canceled during a four-hour strike by security personnel at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, on January 7, 2019.


© Tobias Schwarz
A board displays flights canceled during a four-hour strike by security personnel at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, on January 7, 2019.


After a slight improvement in July, traffic fell again in September and bookings for the last quarter herald a more than gloomy end of the year, down 78% from last year, according to IATA.

The expected return of travelers after the summer, with the added value of the business class, did not take place. Videoconferencing meetings, tested on a large scale during lockdown in March, remain a safe means of working without exposing yourself to potential risks.

It does not even work for companies to claim that the overlap of health safety measures for passengers (distance, mask, dematerialized procedures, disinfections …) combined with advanced ventilation systems and cabin air filtration put passengers at risk. protection from contagion.


An airplane at Tocumen international airport, in Panama, on October 12, 2020


© STR
An airplane at Tocumen international airport, in Panama, on October 12, 2020


“The risk of contracting covid during a trip [en avión] it’s really very very low, “says Dr. David Powell, IATA medical consultant.

For the sector, “the key” to a safe return of passengers lies in the large-scale deployment of tests before boarding, as an alternative to a quarantine on arrival at destination.

Something that is already being tested in Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, Brussels and London, as well as in Gulf countries, between Hawaii and the continental United States, in Canada, in Bogotá, at the Sao Paulo-Guarulhos airport in Brazil and in Asia , according to IATA and the airport organization ACI.

Hong Kong and Singapore announced on Thursday an agreement in principle to together form a “bubble” that would allow their residents to travel freely, without quarantine, between the two cities, on the condition of presenting a negative test for the coronavirus.

– Food delivery tray –

While waiting for diagnostic tests to become more widespread, IATA keeps sounding the alarm: with activity at half gas, companies need more government help.

To stay afloat, they have already obtained, according to the organization, 160,000 million dollars (136,000 million euros) of public support through direct aid, loans, salary measures and tax reductions or relaxation.


Employees of the low-cost airline HK Express take part in a "flight to nowhere" around Hong Kong on October 15, 2020


© Peter Parks
Employees of the low-cost airline HK Express take part in a “flight to nowhere” around Hong Kong on October 15, 2020


But in the absence of bookings, normally made during the dynamic summer period, companies “will not make it this winter,” warned IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac.

In the United States, 13,000 United Airlines employees were left on technical strike at the beginning of the month, in the absence of political agreement in Washington on new support for the airline sector, following the end in September of a device that allowed workers to continue paying .

Ryanair, which received no aid, announced Thursday that it would reduce its capacities by 60% compared to last winter, compared to 40% initially expected, and would close its bases in Cork and Shannon, in Ireland, and Toulouse, in France, For this season.

In Asia, companies improvise original offers to salvage their boxes.

Several “flights to nowhere”, taking off and landing at the same airport, drawing criticism from environmental advocates, were proposed in Australia, Japan and Taiwan.

And Singapore Airlines offers to dine aboard an A380 immobilized on the runway, for a price ranging from 33 to 400 euros (from 38 to 468 dollars), with “extraordinary” success, according to the company that also delivers food trays. at home.

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