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Airline plans for long-term coronavirus travel drought

The airline says it believes it has survived the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.


By Alison Cider

After raising more than $ 100 billion through government assistance and mortgages on assets such as planes and frequent flyer programs, airlines are likely to have enough cash to withstand a long-term recession. Cowen & Co. Analysts say. However, United Airlines Holdings CEO will take years to recover passenger demand. Co., Ltd.

“No doubt, we are still in the early stages of this marathon,” Delta Air Lines CEO Edbastian wrote to employees on Thursday.

Delta and United lost $ 16.8 billion together in the first nine months of the year.

Airlines have two main challenges. It’s about alleviating the fear of flying that settled during the pandemic and reforming itself to compete for a share of the suddenly much smaller air travel business.

United’s CEO Scott Kirby said at a conference call Thursday that “12 to 15 months of pain, sacrifice and difficulty await” to discuss the airline’s third-quarter performance. I have. ” But, “more and more, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

United and Delta lost a total of $ 16.8 billion in the first nine months of the year. Both have reduced the workforce by at least 20%, including more than 13,000 furloughs from United. The airline sought a second government aid to prevent headcount reductions, hoping that it would be ready to recover when demand returned. However, negotiations over a broader bailout package have been unresolved for months.

American Airlines Group Co., Ltd.

And Southwest Airlines Co., Ltd.

We will report the results for the third quarter next week.

Passengers are back, but they are trickles, not a surge. On Sunday, when nearly a million people passed through US airports, the volume was more than 60% less than at the same time a year ago, and most days worse.

Also, some analysts believe there is little room for improvement for some time, as most corporate trips are still pending, borders are closed or subject to a set of immigration requirements. I will. Delta expects fourth-quarter sales to fall 66% below last year’s levels. United’s Kirby said travel demand is likely to be limited to half the normal level until the vaccine is developed and widely available. He predicted that business trips would probably not return to normal until 2024.

As people resume some elements of their normal lives (and in some cases return to offices and schools), airlines also step up their efforts to convince them that it is safe to fly. I am.

That claim was supported this week by the results of a study conducted by the US Department of Defense in Boeing on how virus particles move around in flight. Co., Ltd.


Using a cough mannequin that ejects fluorescent tracer particles into a Boeing wide-body aircraft lent by United, the study found that the aerosol was rapidly diluted by a planar ventilation system and an air filter. Studies have shown that even long-haul passengers sitting next to an infected person have a minimal risk of exposure.

After the unprecedented decline in air travel due to the coronavirus, passenger airlines have been forced to make long-term decisions at times of great uncertainty and minimal cash flow. So how are they planning to survive? WSJ will find it.Composite: George Downs / Wall Street Journal

There was a caveat. This study looks at what happens when one passenger is infected instead of multiple passengers, and considers the additional risks of passengers moving in the cabin or turning their heads to talk to each other. I didn’t.

Other academic researchers have recorded nearly 40 cases of Covid-19 appearing to be infected in flight, many of which occur early in the pandemic before masks were widely needed. did.

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Military officials and airline executives said they were encouraged by the results of the new investigation. On social media, United advertised the study, and Kirby said the plane was “really uniquely safe.”

Even if you can persuade them to fly, you will have fewer places to go.

Efforts to create a travel bubble in Asia have failed, and increasing cases in Europe have tightened travel restrictions in Asia.

If infection rates continue to rise, the same can happen in the United States. During the summer, an increase in incidents in parts of the country caused travel restrictions that shortened what seemed to be the beginning of a rebound, leaving airlines to decide how to best serve leaflets. .. Today’s customers book last-minute, pay basement fares for bargains, and fly short distances.

Understand the coronavirus

“We’re literally seeing where people want to go next week,” Joe Esposito, senior vice president of network planning at Delta, said at an industry event this week.

United is monitoring metrics such as skyscraper utilization in New York to understand when people may resume their trips for work, said Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nosera. Said on Thursday.

Airlines are also seizing the opportunity to secure space at once crowded airports. Southwest Airlines announced this week that it will begin flights at major airports in Chicago and Houston, increasing its presence at secondary airports in both cities and confronting United directly at the hub.

Kirby said United has its own plans. He said the airline is fishing to return to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Kirby has long believed that he made a mistake by leaving JFK in 2015 before United joined the company.

Write to Alison Cider (

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