Photo: ATL

MIAMI – Following President Donald Trump’s recent guidelines to avoid non-essential travel in the US, the country’s major airlines have cut at least 1,000 flights today and are considering suspending services altogether.

Even though POTUS has not mentioned any domestic travel ban regarding connecting flights between Europe and the North American country, an average of 9,000 domestic flights has been canceled in the US, according to FlightStats, a flight-tracking website.

Major US airlines, major cuts

On Tuesday morning, Delta Air Lines (DL) canceled over 1,600 flights while American Airlines (AA) cut at least 1,200.

Southwest Airlines (WN) also halted 1,000 flights per day, with United Airlines (UA) suspending over 900. On its part, Alaska Airlines (AS) announced a reduction of 200 per day.

The number of operations could increase voluntarily beyond March as major carriers are drafting internal plans for a shutdown, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Additionally, during March, several North American airlines cut capacity in international and domestic services prior to worldwide travel restrictions, but flight cancelations are rising rapidly after Airlines for America (A4A) supported the request of a US$50bn bailout made by some carriers.

Consequences for other major airlines worldwide

Apart from the already known measures taken by Asian and Oceanian countries, Middle Eastern states have adopted new regulations restricting movement in and out of their countries as the COVID-19 pandemic endures.

After facing pressure from governments, Emirates, one of the globe’s largest airlines, stepped back from its initial decision last Sunday to temporarily suspend all its passenger commercial flights by March 25, 2020.

However, four days later, the United Arab Emirates announced that residents who were outside the country would be temporarily stopped from returning to the country, banning nationals from traveling abroad, a blow to Emirates’ reversal of its decision.

In addition, a week before the UAE announcement, all Schengen Area Member States approved a plan proposed by the EU Commission to close their external borders for at least a period of 30 days to halt the further spread of the COVID-19, thus affecting airlines from the 26-country bloc.

The European ban affects all non-EU nationals except long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats, cross-border and healthcare workers, and people transporting goods.

Industry implications

On March 5, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expected a US$113bn revenue loss, but the gravity of the pandemic crisis has deepened due to ongoing government travel restrictions and airlines and aerospace corporations cutting operations and requesting liquidity measures.

As a result, IATA updated today its initial report on the revenue impact of the COVID-19, now estimating the revenue loss for the industry at US$252bn.

Another implication is airlines waiving their 2020 guidance with their CEOs giving up to their common salaries and taking cost-saving measures related to unpaid leaves, credit facilities, grounding aircraft and delaying orders.

It is evident that the commercial aviation industry is at unprecedented risk. The world has literally stopped moving. IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, best sums up the current state of affairs as follows:

“The airline industry faces its gravest crisis…Without immediate government relief measures, there will not be an industry left standing.”