The Air France-KLM group has announced it will reduce capacity by between 70 and 90 per cent over the coming months as travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic escalate.
The group said the reduction was currently scheduled to last for two months and would see Air France ground its entire A380 fleet and KLM ground its B747 fleet.
Both aircraft are already being retired from the airlines’ fleets over the coming years.
In a statement, the group said:
“The Covid-19 crisis has continued to spread in recent days, leading many countries to take increasingly stringent measures in an attempt to slow the rate of spread of the epidemic.
“Some countries have imposed constraints on the movement of travellers from France, the Netherlands or more broadly from Europe.
“In France, the transition to a level 3 public health emergency requires the closure of all non-essential services since last weekend.
“Faced with these growing restrictions on the possibility of travelling and a strong downward trend in demand which has resulted in a drop in traffic and sales over the last few weeks, the Air France-KLM Group is obliged to gradually reduce its flight activity very significantly over the next few days, with the number of available seat kilometres (ASK) potentially decreasing between -70 per cent and -90 per cent.”
It said that while as of March 12 the group and its subsidiaries had more than €6 billion in cash and cash equivalents, it was forecasting a “sharply deteriorated financial trajectory” compared to that presented at its annual results last month.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused huge disruption to aviation, as wide-ranging travel bans come into effect around the world.
LOT Polish Airlines is suspending all its international operations as the country closes its borders.
The Lufthansa Group has cancelled 23,000 flights in April, Finnair says it will cut capacity by 90 per cent indefinitely from April 1, SAS will halt “most of its traffic” from today (March 16), US airlines are reducing or suspending flights on international routes, and IAG, parent company of British Airways, is to cut capacity by 75 per cent.
Last week BA’s CEO Alex Cruz warned staff that unprecedented route cuts and aircraft groundings were ahead, with the crisis more disruptive than SARS or 9/11.
Passengers have faced cancelled flights and confusion about where they will be able to fly in future.
Airlines have asked customers not to contact their call centres unless they are meant to fly within the next 72 hours, as they face unprecedented demand.
Meanwhile staff at airlines around the world are at risk of being forced to take unpaid leave or redundancy.