European Airlines Struggle to Survive
European Airlines Struggle to Survive

Airlines are fast running out of cash, as hundreds of thousands of fleets are grounded; as they battle to survive travel restrictions and country lock downs, that have engulfed the industry in crisis.

The escalating coronavirus crisis could bankrupt most of the world’s airlines by the end of May; unless they get help from governments and the industry, an aviation consultant has warned.

“Demand is drying up in ways that are completely unprecedented. Coordinated government and industry action is needed now if catastrophe is to be avoided. Otherwise, emerging from the crisis will be like entering a brutal battlefield, littered with casualties.”

Sydney-based consulting firm CAPA Centre for Aviation


Over the past week the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and associated Government travel restrictions many of which have been imposed without notice, have had a significant and negative impact on the schedules of all Airlines flying in and out of Europe.

Over the past 7 days, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus have imposed flight bans of varying degree;, from all flights to/from the country, or banned flights to/from countries with high risk of Covid infection. Over the weekend for example Poland and Norway have banned all international flights, while in other countries (without travel bans) there has been severe reduction of ATC and essential airport services.

Rise in Coronavirus Case in Europe
Rise in Coronavirus Case in Europe

Austrian Airlines - All Flights Grounded

Austrian Airlines will temporarily suspend ALL regular flight operations from 18th March until the 28th of March.

“As Austria’s national carrier, we are aware of our responsibility and will cooperate with the government and try to bring home as many Austrians as possible”

Austrian Airlines CEO, Alexis von Hoensbroech

British Airways - Cuts 75% Capacity

British Airways owner International Airlines Group, which also owns Aer Lingus, British Airways, IAG Cargo, Iberia and Vueling, has said it will cut capacity on flights by 75 percent.

"Capacity, in terms of available seat kilometres, in the first quarter of 2020 is now expected to be reduced by around 7.5 percent compared to last year. For April and May, the group plans to reduce capacity by at least 75% compared to the same period in 2019."

"We have seen a substantial decline in bookings across our airlines and global network over the past few weeks and we expect demand to remain weak until well into the summer"

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh

In latest information on its website, BA states: "We’re currently experiencing extremely high call volumes. Please don’t call or message unless you’re travelling in the next 72 hours, so we can help those needing urgent re-booking."

British Airways bosses have warned staff there will be a loss of jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a memo to staff, boss Alex Cruz wrote job cuts could be "short term, perhaps long term".

COVID-19 US Extends Restrictions to UK and Ireland
COVID-19 US Extends Restrictions to UK and Ireland

easyJet - No Guarantee to Survive

In a statement carried by Sky News about repatriating passengers, easyJet said they would continue to operate rescue flights for short periods “where we can” to repatriate passengers; however, it would also be cutting operations further.

The Luton-based carrier said in a statement there is ‘no guarantee’ that European airlines ‘will survive what could be a long-term travel freeze and the risks of a slow recovery’.

“European aviation faces a precarious future and it is clear that coordinated government backing will be required to ensure the industry survives"

easyJet Chief executive Johan Lundgren
easyJet orders additional Airbus A320neos
easyJet A320NEO

SAS - Most Flights Grounded

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) have already halted most of their traffic since Monday 16th March. SAS will continue to fly domestic in Norway, Sweden
and intra-Scandinavian routes.

The cuts in service could see as many as 10,000 employees temporarily laid-off. In fact, this would be 90% of the airline’s total workforce.

First SAS A350-900 Performs Maiden Flight

Virgin Atlantic - 80% Flights Cut

Virgin Atlantic to reduce daily flights by 80% by 26 March and the London Heathrow to Newark route to be axed immediately.

Virgin Atlantic asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave. The warning comes after many countries around the world closed borders, or placed extra restrictions on arrivals.

Virgin Atlantic last week concluded Airbus A340-600 operation, which saw the A340 operating the last service from Heathrow to Lagos.

The airline originally planned to operate the last A340-600 service in late-May 2020.

Virgin Atlantic eyeing Perth to London flights
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600

Norwegian - 85% Flights Cut, 90% Staff Temporarily Laid Off

Norwegian Air will cancel 85% of their flights and temporarily lay off 7,300 employees, as a result of the growing coronavirus crisis, that has strangled demand for air travel, the airline said today. 

Norwegian Air said the temporarily layoffs made up about 90% of their workforce and included pilots, cabin crew, maintenance and administrative staff. 

As of March 21st, the company will primarily fly a reduced scheduled domestically in Norway and between the Nordic capitals. Limited schedule will remain in place until at least April 17th but will be reviewed on a regular basis.

US President Donald Trump extended his restrictions on travel from Europe on Saturday to include Britain, Norwegian's biggest destination for transatlantic flights, while other nations also severely limiting air traffic.  

Having lost money each year from 2017 to 2019, and raised cash from shareholders on three occasions, the company's debts and liabilities had grown to 82 billion Kr ($7.9 billion) by the end of last year. 

Norwegian Air had said on Friday that they needed access to cash "within weeks, not months". 

Ryanair - Most Fleet Grounded

Ryanair expects the majority of their European fleet to be grounded over next seven to 10 days. In countries where they are not grounded, growing restrictions could make flying "impractical if not impossible"

For April and May, Ryanair now expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80%; a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out.

Ryainair chief executive Michael O'Leary said "extraordinary and unprecedented travel restrictions" imposed by governments had come "in many cases with minimal or zero notice"

"Ryanair is a resilient airline group, with a very strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced or even zero flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality, which will come about sooner rather than later as EU Governments take unprecedented action to restrict the spread of Covid-19."

Ryainair chief executive Michael O'Leary
Ryanair Halts Boeing 737 MAX Order Payments

The World Travel and Tourism Council last week warned that up to 50 million jobs globally were at risk in the sector, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nigel Frith, a senior market analyst at AskTraders, said the virus outbreak had caused the "biggest crisis to hit the industry, worse than 9/11".

"This is no longer just the smaller players like Flybe who are being affected. Industry big shots such as British Airways is even warning over its survival. It wouldn't be surprising if governments are forced to step in to prop up some airlines."

Nigel Frith, a senior market analyst at AskTraders