04 June 2020 | News
Coronavirus: Information and insight for travel companies
Travel companies around the world are responding to the coronavirus outbreak. With such uncertainty surrounding the entire travel sector and new information emerging every day, we’ve created this hub of information to help industry insiders stay up to date with all the most important news and insights.
We think it’s a time to put competition aside and bring airlines from around the world together to share best practices and to ensure every carrier survives and ultimately thrives following coronavirus. We’ll also be sharing opinions and analysis from members of the 15below team so remember to keep coming back to this page.
4 June 2020
China reopens borders to previously banned foreign airlines
From 8 June, Chinese borders will be reopened to foreign airlines which were previously not allowed to enter the country. These airlines are limited to operating a single flight per week to a Chinese city of their choosing.
Airlines will be allowed to increase the number of flights to two per week as long as no passengers test positive for COVID-19 for three consecutive weeks.
If an airline carries up to five passengers who test positive, their operations into China will be suspended for a week, and this will increase to a month if there are 10 passengers who test positive.
4 June 2020
Aegean Airlines, EasyJet and Wizz Air become first three airlines to join EASA charter
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has launched a programme which will enable airlines and airports to work with their national authorities to implement measures that will ensure safe travel for passengers and staff.
EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said:
“I am delighted to welcome these first implementers of our guidelines and charter. These airlines and airports will lead the way in applying the recommended measures and will share their experiences with us. This will help us to reach the ultimate goal of harmonised, health-safe travel across Europe and to destinations beyond.”
15below's CEO Nicholas Key has said in response to the news:
“It’s fantastic to see airlines and airports coming together to work with their national authorities to promote a unified response to the COVID-19 crisis. This will undoubtedly drive a much faster recovery for our industry and I implore as many businesses as possible to join this charter so that together we can learn as quickly as possible and get the industry up and running again.”
3 June 2020
12 passengers flying with Qatar Airways from Doha to Athens test positive for COVID-19
Greek authorities have put a temporary ban on any inbound flights from Qatar Airways after 12 of 91 passengers on board a flight from Doha to Athens tested positive for COVID-19.
The 12 passengers will be quarantined in a hotel for 14 days, while all others on the flight will be isolated for a week before being tested again.
3 June 2020
Flight levels in South Korea, China and Vietnam are only 22-28% lower than the previous year
IATA has identified April as the "nadir of the crisis" as its data shows worldwide flights increased 30% between 21 April and 27 May. The bulk of this is an increase in domestic flights in South Korea, China and Vietnam, though IATA chief economist Brian Pearce has also said:
"Throughout May, we have seen a steady rise in bookings… [It is] more evidence that May is a better month [for travel than April]."
2 June 2020
ICAO task force releases guidelines intended to "inform, align and progress" recovery roadmaps
The ICAO's Aviation Recovery Task Force has released recommendations to guide new processes in the airport, during boarding, and in-flight. This includes encouraging less cabin baggage, temporarily limiting the sale of duty-free items, and limiting or discontinuing food and beverage service on short-haul flights.
IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac has commented:
"We are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery. This layering of measures should give travellers and crew the confidence they need to fly again. And we are committed to working with our partners to continuously improve these measures as medical science, technology and the pandemic evolve.”
More details of the guidelines can be found here.
1 June 2020
Etihad Wellness initiative to include comprehensive hygiene measures and Health Ambassadors
Etihad Airways is the first in the industry to introduce Wellness Ambassadors - crew members who will provide essential travel health information and care to provide greater peace of mind for passengers.
Other measures included in the Etihad Wellness initiative include enhanced cleaning protocols at the airline's catering facilities and food testing lab, deep-cleaning in the cabin, and health screening. Travellers who require personalised information and support can contact the 24/7 Wellness Team by email.
CEO of the Etihad Aviation Group, Tony Douglas, said:
“Providing for our guests, and their wellbeing is one of Etihad’s core values, and we have a responsibility to protect them, to keep them fully informed, and to provide even greater levels of genuine warmth and personal care. We must guarantee they can travel assured in the knowledge that we have every aspect of their journey with us covered, while still providing a top-quality travel experience."
1 June 2020
Lufthansa Group accepts European Commission's updated aid conditions
A new report from S&P Global Ratings suggests that passenger numbers will likely drop to 55% this year, vs. 2019. Initially, the agency predicted a decline of only 20-30%. The agency has also suggested that demand will not fully recover until 2023 - one year longer than it originally anticipated.
31 May 2020
Lufthansa Group accepts European Commission's updated aid conditions
The German group's executive board has agreed to the conditions which "have been reduced", resulting in the group accepting a €9 billion financial aid package from the German government.
Previously, Lufthansa was asked to give up 72 slot pairs at Frankfurt and Munich as part of the deal, and this figure has since been reduced to 24 daily slots which will not be allocated in a bidding process to new competitors.
29 May 2020
JetBlue expects flights to increase to 25% of "normal" in June
JetBlue's CEO Robin Hayes has announced an increase to up to 25% of its pre-crisis schedule - up from 10% currently.
Hayes has also echoed the sentiment of much of 15below's recent updates which urges airlines to build passenger confidence by allowing ticket changes with no fees, and to consider the passenger journey from the booking process, not the trip to the airport.
29 May 2020
Norwegian government extends state loan guarantee scheme
Because the crisis is "lasting longer than envisaged when the programme was initially launched", Norway’s government plans to extend its state loan guarantee scheme for airlines until the end of October.
28 May 2020
Easyjet's new fleet projections are down 14% along with planned staff cuts
The UK low cost carrier has said it expects its fleet to drop to around 302 aircraft by the end of 2021 - 51 down on it's pre-crisis projections. The airline also anticipates reducing its 15,000-strong workforce by up to 30%.
28 May 2020
China to allow travellers from selected countries under new "green channel" policy
Both Chinese and international carriers may now apply for rights to operate flights into China. The list of countries currently includes Singapore, Japan ,Britain, Germany, Francy, Italy and Switzerland.
From 1 June, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will increase the number of flights per week to 407 from 134 currently.
28 May 2020
American Airlines CEO does not foresee any US airline closures
Doug Parker, Chief Executive at American Airlines has said that he anticipates the US industry will shrink by 10-20% this summer, vs 2019, but does not expect to see any brands disappear altogether, saying:
“The effect is going to be as though a large airline went away. We’re all going to be in this for the long haul, but don’t take that to mean we’re all going to be flying the same number of airplanes, and therefore we have to figure out a way to have 2019 revenue in 2021. We’re all building our airlines in a way that doesn’t anticipate having 2019 revenue in 2021.”
Parker has also said that he does not think "people should view bankruptcy as a financial tool" following a number of airlines in the region - including Colombian airline Avianca - filing for bankruptcy with a view to resuming operations after the crisis ends.
27 May 2020
South African Airways forced to reconsider mid-June flights
South Africa's flag carrier had previously released an announcement that it "looks forward to resuming domestic services" from mid-June. However, the airline's business-rescue practitioner Matuson Associates has stated that flights, “remain as is until SAA has a better sense of what the Level 3 lockdown means in terms of domestic air travel.”
Matuson also claimed that the "unvested press statement created an unfair expectation on relevant stakeholders, including SAA's customers as well as employees, who are on unpaid absence as a result of the travel ban which led to the halting of the company's operations and compounded its financial distress."
27 May 2020
Fiji Airways secures vital support from government
The Fijian government has offered its flag carrier FJ$450 million ($305.6 million) worth of finance initiatives, including payment deferrals, and new long-term debt financing.
Having had to lose all 79 of its expatriate pilots, plus 758 other employees, and force a 20% permanent salary reduction for all remaining staff, Andre Viljoen, CEO and managing director of Fiji Airways said:
“We are extremely grateful to the Fijian government for standing behind Fiji Airways and providing these guarantees, without which these financing initiatives would not be possible, and Fiji Airways would not survive.”
Alex Thornton, Head of Account Management APAC said:
"Although this is sad news for the hard-working teams at Fiji Airways, I am confident that their Bula Spirit will continue to shine despite all the changes that are taking place.
Collaborating with the Fiji Airways Team is always a delight and we hope that their government concessions will help them get through this challenge.
We continue to work with our Fiji Airways colleagues, reviewing and adjusting processes towards their new normal, so that they are ready when the borders open to welcome us all back in the Fijian paradise. "
26 May 2020
Hong Kong and Singapore airports due to lift bans from 1 June
Hong Kong International Airport and Singapore Changi Airport will lift transit bans on 1 and 2 June respectively.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has announced that passengers will "remain in designated facilities in the transit area" whilst airport staff will be required to wear PPE and carry out temperature checks on staff and passengers.
In Hong Kong, all arrivals are currently required to go to the AsiaWorld Expo site for COVID-19 testing, before a mandatory 14 day quarantine period, and it's unclear whether this will continue from 1 June.
26 May 2020
Air Canada to fly modified aircraft for business passengers
From 1 June, Air Canada will fly modified aircraft that only contain 58 business-class seats - down from a typical 120-seat configuration.
The airline's Chief Financial Officer Michael Rousseau said:
"Airlines like Air Canada are trying whatever they can to motivate traffic back into the planes in this transitional period."
26 May 2020
Aviation Week poll reveals passengers are most put off travel by quarantine measures
A poll on the Aviation Week website shows that passengers are more put off travel by countries' quarantine rules than the cleanliness of the aircraft, and social distancing measures in the airport.
This poll supports the argument by IATA that quarantine rules must be relaxed if the industry is to recover in the fastest time possible.
26 May 2020
Analysis shows airline debt will grow to hit as much as $550 billion
Analysis from IATA suggests airline debt, through government and commercial loans, will grow to an estimated $550 billion by the end of the year - an additional 27% on top of the $430 billion debt the industry had already incurred by the end of last year.
IATA has stated, however, that the support offered to airlines by governments during the COVID-19 crisis has been "unevenly spread", saying:
”Although in total government support looks fairly substantial at $123 billion, it has been very unevenly spread and where governments haven’t supported airlines, we have started to see airlines starting to get into difficulty."
This includes South America's LATAM which today became the largest airline so far to file for bankruptcy due to the coronavirus crisis.
21 May 2020
Greece to welcome tourists from 15 June
Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced that tourism will restart from 15 June, starting with flights into Athens International Airport. Direct international flights to the rest of the country’s airports will resume July 1.
In his announcement to the nation, Mitsotakis said that some countries may be excluded for the time being, depending on their infection levels.
On arrival, visitors will not be subject to mandatory quarantine or blanket testing, instead sample testing will be carried out.
20 May 2020
Transit allowed through Changi Airport as Singapore reopens its borders
Singapore will gradually allow travellers to transit through Changi Airport from Jun 2, as it prepares to ease some COVID-19 restrictions and reopen its borders.
The Ministry of Health has said that Singapore will gradually reopen its borders - with safeguards in place - to "allow Singaporeans to conduct essential activities abroad and for foreigners to enter and transit through the country."
19 May 2020
IATA outlines recommendations for flights post-COVID-19
IATA has announced a number of measures that they will encourage all airlines to adopt. These include:
- Governments setting up online portals to collect pre-flight information that can be used to asses passengers’ health status and allow contact-tracing should they become unwell.
- Temperature screening and social distancing at the airport.
- An increase in self-scanning of documents.
- A reduction of carry-on luggage.
- Hand wipes handed out to passengers to sanitise their own areas.
However, due to the fact that all staff and passengers will be required to wear face masks, IATA has also been quoted saying, "Physical distancing on board, through for example blocking seats, is not necessary.”
18 May 2020
Russia recommends airlines should not exceed 50% capacity
Russia’s federal consumer right protection authority has recommended to airlines that while they ramp up their itineraries, they should not allow more than 50% total passenger capacity.
The authority also recommends mandatory temperature control of crew and passengers, provision of masks and gloves and disinfection of equipment and crew transport vehicles.
14 May 2020
DOT allows exemptions on CARES Act route commitments
Following petitions from a number airlines and trade associations, the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the US has stated that: “carriers contend that services to certain points in their networks are unreasonable, impracticable, costly, and challenging to complete in light of public health and safety concerns."
As a result, airlines will be allowed to exempt 5% of the locations in their service obligation list, or five locations - whichever is greater - and will have until 18 May to submit their requests to DOT.
13 May 2020
IATA warns of longer-term damage than previously anticipated
During IATA's weekly update, it forecasted a sub-4 billion revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs) in 2020 - down from 8 billion before the COVID-19 crisis.
It also stated that passenger demand may not recover at the same rate as the economy and could be affected until 2024, saying: “It is clearly the case that air travel will lag the recovery in domestic economies because consumers, in particular, will need the confidence… to start engaging in discretionary spending.”
13 May 2020
Proposed legislation in US requiring airlines to offer full refunds for cancellations
Current law does not require airlines to provide refunds for journeys cancelled by the passenger for "personal reasons" and the default, generally, results in airlines providing vouchers or credits for future flights.
US Senators are now proposing that airlines should offer a full refund for tickets cancelled by either the airline or the passenger, saying: “Rebooking is impractical for many consumers, especially given the uncertain nature of the future course of the pandemic.”
12 May 2020
OAG reports a small but significant rise in travel figures
Airline-schedule tracking firm OAG reported a 2% increase in weekly capacity last week, with 29.8 million scheduled seats. This represents an increase of 600,000 on the previous week with particular rises reported in China and South America.
OAG said: “Total capacity is now at 29.9 million seats; some 80 million fewer seats than operated in the same week last year which highlights how far the global market has been impacted."
12 May 2020
Spain announces quarantine measures for international arrivals
From 15 May, Spain has said that anyone travelling into the country must go into quarantine for 14 days except for essential shopping and healthcare requirements. Airlines will be required to hand out "passenger location cards" so that the authorities know where travellers are staying.
The Spanish government has told airlines that they should inform travellers of this before they buy their tickets.
11 May 2020
European airlines layout plans to operate up to 50% of capacity between July and September
IAG - the owner of airlines including British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, LEVEL and Vueling has presented plans suggesting it will operate as much as 45% of capacity between July and September this year.
Ryanair also plans to operate 50% of capacity during that period, and by October, IAG and Air France-KLM expect to operate 70% and 60% of capacity respectively.
More information at Forbes, here.
9 May 2020
Lufthansa Group to re-introduce services to leisure destinations from early June
Following the end of its repatriation schedule, Lufthansa has announced it will double the number of aircraft in service to 160 to enable services to leisure destinations to 106 cities, including Mallorca, Sylt, Rostock and Crete.
7 May 2020
British Airways and American Airlines propose release of slots at Heathrow or Gatwick
A probe by the UK's Competition & Markets Authority has identified potential competition on routes between London and a number of US cities.
The airlines have responded with a number of proposed measures, including the release of slots at Heathrow or Gatwick to serve Boston, Dallas and Miami.
6 May 2020
Frontier Airlines sell the middle seat for $39
American ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines has launched an innovative initiative to offer passengers peace of mind whilst also driving revenue generation by selling the middle seat on its aircraft for an additional $39.
Between 8 May and 31 August, 18 middle seats will be made available via the "More Room" initiative in order to encourage travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Frontier CEO Barry Biffle stated that this was a viable alternative to blocking all middle seats as that would "cause airfares to rise."
5 May 2020
Lufthansa Group seeks state aid, but rejects conditions
Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr is currently in negotiations with the state around the conditions associated with financial support. He says: “Lufthansa was successfully privatised in 1997. During the last three years, we have consistently generated an operating result of over €2 billion… We have proven that we can do it, and that is why it is important to us to preserve the entrepreneurial freedom of decision and action of the Lufthansa Group.”
5 May 2020
Qantas talks of cheap flights once restrictions are lifted, amidst high demand from Australian travellers
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has assured passengers that travel will remain cheap once restrictions are lifted, saying: “Airlines will be keen to stimulate travel demand to get their people and aircraft back to work and restart their cashflow pipelines, repairing the damage done by the devastating and sudden drop in revenue. That’s good news for consumers because it means plenty of good deals.”
Pent-up demand appears to be high, with a recent survey of the Australian carrier's Frequent Flyers showing that around 85% are keen to travel again as soon as possible.
4 May 2020
Air France to receive €7 billion in aid from the European Union
The French government has offered financial support Air France with two loans, one of €4 billion from six banks, guaranteed by the state, and one direct shareholder loan of €3 billion.
There are several conditions attached to the financial support, including a reduction of its domestic network to encourage passengers to travel by train where possible, the acceleration of its fleet renewal for more efficient planes, and a 50% reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2030.
4 May 2020
WIZZ Air encourages passenger confidence with clear communications as some operations restart
WIZZ Air has been communicating with passengers as they restart operations in countries including the UK and Austria.
The low-cost airline's communications aim to boost passenger confidence by keeping them informed with new protocols such as the mandatory wearing of face masks, enhanced hygiene measures, and flexible travel options.
Gemma Chalk, Head of Account Management EMEA & Americas at 15below commented:
"Communicating pre-flight to help passengers prepare for travel has always been important, but even more so now than ever. Wizz Air’s latest campaign provides confidence to travellers to reassure them that they are doing everything they can to make air travel safe.
In addition to these campaigns, Wizz is also using the 15below platform to send personalised, destination-specific pre-flight emails, filled with more detail for their destination, based on the country’s regulations."
1 May 2020
WIZZ Air introduces innovative approach to encourage bookings
Hungarian low-cost airline, WIZZ Air offered passengers the WIZZ Flex service - which means they can change their flight without fees, or get a refund to their WIZZ account - for only €1 on booking a flight between 30 April and 1 May 2020.
30 Apr 2020
Transport Ministers call for change to regulations around refunds and vouchers
Transport Ministers from twelve European countries have jointly written to the European Commission to request for a change to regulations that will enable airlines to issue vouchers before offering refunds.
The letter argued that it will “not only protect airlines and consumers in these difficult times but it will also stimulate market recovery through the flexibility of travel and enhancement of consumer trust in the long-term.” However, other member states were concerned that changes to the current rules could "frustrate the legitimate expectations of passengers.”
29 Apr 2020
Heathrow CEO pushes for international biosecurity standards to encourage air travel
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive at Heathrow airport has said that common biosecurity standards around the world will be key to driving passenger confidence, and an uplift in air travel.
He stated: ”As we come out of this crisis, each country will be cautious about reopening their borders to avoid the risk of reinfection. Until there is a cure or a vaccination, it is likely that travel between countries will only happen if each considers the other to be low risk, and to have similarly high standards. So the aviation industry needs a common biosecurity standard for air travel, just as there is for airport security.”
28 Apr 2020
Emirates restructures processes to manage 150,000 refunds a month
Dubai-based airline, Emirates has optimised its procedures in order to process as many as 150,000 refunds per month up to early August.
Sir Tim Clark, President at Emirates has said: "We would like to assure our customers and trade partners that we will honour refunds, and that we are doing our best to speed things up."
The airline is offering three options. Passengers can keep the original booking and reschedule when they're ready, request a voucher that they can use at no additional charge, or opt for a full refund.
27 Apr 2020
MPs call for industry bailout while Airlines UK warns of a "cliff-edge post-June" if furlough scheme is not extended
In the UK, a group of 20 MPs have written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak calling for a bailout of the aviation industry - albeit with strict environmental conditions in which airlines will be forced to find an appropriate solution to carbon-offsetting.
Meanwhile, Airlines UK - the trade body for UK-registered airlines - has also written a letter asking for the furlough scheme, which is currently supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs, to be extended beyond the end of June. The letter stated that otherwise, the industry "would be facing a cliff-edge...whilst services are scaled up."
23 Apr 2020
Ryanair CEO refuses to fly if the airline is forced to keep middle seats empty
Michael O'Leary, CEO of Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair has described a proposal by airlines to keep middle seats empty as a way to promote social-distancing as "idiotic".
As well as claiming the system would be "entirely ineffective" due to the distance between passengers still not being great enough, O'Leary has also stated that Ryanair cannot make any money with 66% load factors, and therefore, "if social distancing is imposed, cheap travel is over."
22 Apr 2020
Etihad remains productive despite fleet being grounded
In order to remain productive while all of its passenger fleet is grounded, Etihad Airways has announced that all of its passenger aircraft are undergoing maintenance. This includes small tasks such as seat repairs and updates to entertainment systems, to engine changes and modifications.
22 Apr 2020
Air Mauritius becomes second airline to enter voluntary administration in as many days
A letter from the airline's board of directors today stated that its entire revenue base has been eroded due to a decrease in demand as a result of a number of travel bans. Air Mauritius also stated that it believes demand will not return until late 2020.
21 Apr 2020
Virgin Australia enters voluntary administration
Virgin Australia, Australia's second-largest airline has gone into voluntary administration today after failing to secure financial assistance from both State and Federal Governments. The airline's CEO, Paul Scurrah, commented: "Our decision today is about securing the future of the Virgin Australia Group and emerging on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis...Australia needs a second airline and we are determined to keep flying. Virgin Australia will play a vital role in getting the Australian economy back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the country has access to competitive and high-quality air travel."
Alex Thornton, Head of Account Management APAC at 15below said:
"We have been working with Virgin Australia since 2011, supporting the team there in the delivery of more than 4.6 million passenger notifications per year. In this difficult time, we hope that the administrators assigned to Virgin Australia will create a better, leaner and even more competitive airline for the Australian market. We wish our contacts all the best in finding the right way forward through this crisis."
20 Apr 2020
United Airlines preliminary pre-tax loss of $2.1 billion for Q1
An article by Flight Global today reported that United Airlines has revealed total revenue in the first quarter is down 17% on the same period last year and that it is reporting a "preliminary pre-tax loss of $2.1 billion for the first quarter of 2020 and a $1 billion pre-tax loss on an adjusted basis."
United will receive $5 billion through the CARES Act, of which $1.5 billion is a loan and $3.5 billion in grants.
17 Apr 2020
CWT announces ways in which it is using innovation to support customers
International travel management company CWT has released a blog post that shows the innovative ways in which the company is adapting to be able to support customers during these unprecedented times.
The company's EVP & Chief Traveler Officer, Niklas Andreen states, "My conclusion is that, while companies tend towards rigidity, and become top-down-driven to preserve cash in crisis mode...by releasing an organization’s innovation and energy, and accentuating multi-functional teamwork, you can empower your staff to help you face the crisis head-on by challenging the way you have historically done business."
16 Apr 2020
Etihad and Emirates lead the way in pre-flight testing of COVID-19
In early April Etihad announced the introduction of new self-serve technology in airports that tests travellers' vitals to identify potential illness, including early stages of COVID-19. When relevant, the devices will suspend the check-in or bag drop process and alert qualified staff who can manage the situation as appropriate.
Since then, Emirates has brought in a range of new measures, including testing all passengers in the airport prior to boarding with a COVID-19 test that gives results within 10 minutes.
Additional precautionary measures from the airline include the mandatory wearing of masks by passengers, use of gloves, masks and hand sanitiser by airport staff, removal of in-flight reading materials, limited cabin baggage, amendments to packaging and presentation of in-flight food and drink, and enhanced aircraft cleaning.
15 Apr 2020
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines due to receive more than $13 billion in aid
US Congress has confirmed support packages of around $25 billion for national airlines as part of its $2 trillion COVID-19 emergency relief bill.
American Airlines, United, Delta and Southwest are confirmed recipients, with American Airlines claiming more than $10 billion in support - including a $4.1 billion grant - and Southwest receiving a total of $3.2 billion.
American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker has said, "The support our government has entrusted to us carries immense responsibility and an obligation that American Airlines is privileged to undertake."
14 Apr 2020
India keeps flights grounded for a further three weeks
India suspended flights from 22 March but authorities have decided to extend the suspension until 3rd May.
Once flights resume, some carriers have announced plans to implement social distancing measures - including seats and areas within the cabin that cannot be occupied, extensive cleaning procedures, and removal of reading materials from seats. Additionally, low-cost carrier IndiGo also announced plans to discontinue on-board meal services in the short term.
13 Apr 2020
Taiwan offers its aviation industry a second round of relief measures
After offering loans and subsidies of nearly $1 billion on 17th March, the Taiwanese government is now offering airlines a second package expected to cost around $1.66 billion. The latest round of measures will include credit guarantees for those that have applied for loans, plus interest-free subsidies. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has stated that the package will be adjusted according to developments of the crisis.
13 Apr 2020
Wuhan's airport reopens after two months of closure
The airport was shut down on 23rd January and re-opened to enable domestic flights on 8th April. On its first day of operations, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern between them operated around 80 domestic flights in and out of the airport, marking a significant occasion amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
9 Apr 2020
Viva Air runs competition to help incentivise passengers to start flying again
Viva Air Labs - the innovation hub of Columbian low-cost airline Viva Air, has launched a unique competition encouraging third parties to develop a proposal that will incentivise air travel again.
Clyde Hutchinson, founder of Viva Air Labs said: “How can we incentivise people to fly again? What can we change or improve onboard? How can we develop a new boarding procedure for our A320 aircraft? What client-facing processes can we implement in the airport? How can we avoid, prevent, or identify COVID-19 carriers? These and other questions are those that we want all the innovators that want to participate to present solutions and pertinent proposals for.”
The competition closes on April 16 and the prize is $10,000, plus the implementation of the concept.
Nicholas Key, CEO at 15below commented:
“Travel changes as fast as customer expectations change, so here at 15below we love to see innovations that keep the industry relevant and exciting. During an incredibly difficult time for the industry, it’s so uplifting to see Viva Air introducing such a unique and positive concept. I look forward to seeing the outcome of the competition!”
8 Apr 2020
IATA urges governments around the world to act fast to save multiple airlines from bankruptcy
While some governments have put generous solutions in place to keep the travel industry afloat, IATA warns that any others planning on providing support will need to act fast, saying: "Whatever it is, we need it now."
China has started to see an increase in passenger numbers, but IATA's Director General, Alexandre de Juniac, reminds us that 50% of flights are still grounded, and those flying are only seeing load factors of around 50%.
7 Apr 2020
Department of Transportation amends its order regarding how ultra low cost carriers (ULCCs) must perform if receiving government aid via the CARES Act
ULCCs had raised concerns that requirements set by the Department of Transportation would force them to operate routes that were unsustainable. Instead, the DOT is now allowing certain carriers - including Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Allegiant Air - to choose whether to base their service on their latest winter or summer schedule - whichever was lowest.
The DOT has released the following statement regarding the amendment: “For covered carriers with less than a 10% share of total industry domestic capacity in the calendar year 2019 that served a point five or more times per week, it would only need to provide three weekly flights and for points served less than five times per week, it would only need to provide one weekly flight,”
The regulations will be in effect until 30 September when they will be reviewed. Airlines are expected to file monthly reports to the DOT to prove compliance in that time.
6 Apr 2020
A recent estimate by IATA suggests schedule cuts have left the airline industry with a $35 billion refund liability worldwide
The Department of Transportation is forcing travel companies to offer refunds due to an increase in passenger complaints after many airlines have been offering travel vouchers as an alternative. The Department of Transportation has said: "The focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger."
5 Apr 2020
Easyjet founder claims that, if an outstanding order for 107 Airbus aircraft is cancelled, the airline will not need UK government loans
EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Iaonnou has stated that he will not inject further capital into the business while a contract for new aircraft is outstanding. While the airline is - like most others - facing financial difficulties amid the COVID-19 crisis, Hai-Ioannou claims that cancellation or renegotiation of this contract will put Easyjet in a much stronger position, and will negate the need for support from the UK government.
2 Apr 2020
Economic analysis by Airports Council International suggests worldwide passenger traffic "may not recover to pre-coronavirus levels until the end of 2021"
ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, has joined industry leaders to urge governments to implement economic policies to help the industry through the crisis, saying:
"A fair and equitable global economic policy response is required to safeguard essential airport operations, to protect millions of jobs worldwide, and to ensure the survival of the industry and lay the foundation for a fair recovery.”
1 Apr 2020
American Airlines to apply for $12 billion in rescue grants and loans
The U.S. CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) offers passenger airlines up to $25 billion in federal grants, plus up to $25 billion in federal loans for those that are eligible.
By accepting the grant, American Airlines must commit to continuing its service to markets it flew to as of 1st March.
Al Tredinnick, Head of Business Development at 15below commented:
"It’s fantastic to see such generous support available for passenger airlines in the U.S. during these incredibly challenging times.
While such a significant loan may prolong the challenges these carriers face, $25 billion in grants for employee support will make a considerable difference while airlines are losing more in cancellations than they’re generating in new bookings. After yesterday’s news that the Dubai government is set to provide a capital injection to Emirates, I’m hopeful that other governments around the world will start to follow suit to keep the aviation industry on its feet until the crisis we find ourselves in has passed."
1 Apr 2020
Frontier to reduce April flight capacity by more than 90%
Frontier is the first U.S. airline to announce such a big cut. The carrier announced that "If there is strong compliance with the U.S. government's current guidance for Americans to stay at home for an additional 30 days, the airline will be in a position to gradually build flight capacity back up to as much as 35% in May and 100% in the latter half of the year."
15below is working with Frontier to send out all of its cancellation notifications, and the airline will now spend time focusing on aircraft cleaning, plus optimisation of operational systems.
31 Mar 2020
Emirates to receive capital injection from Dubai government
The Dubai government is set to provide a capital injection to Emirates to help the airline through the coronavirus crisis. Dubai’s crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has confirmed the goverment is "committed to providing full support" to Emirates, which has cancelled all passenger flights in response to the outbreak.
30 Mar 2020
US airlines pledge to retain staff in exchange for bailout
10 leading airlines in the US have joined together to ask Congress to approve a $58 billion bailout that will see them through the coronavirus crisis. In exchange for $29 billion of payroll protection grants, the airlines have promised not to furlough or lay off any staff until at least 1st September. A jointly-signed letter outlining the request came from executives at Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, as well as cargo carriers Atlas Air, FedEx Express and UPS Airlines.
Gemma Chalk, Head of Account Management, EMEA & Americas at 15below, says:
"15below has been working hard to support the teams at JetBlue and Hawaiian, two of the airlines to have written to US Congress to plead for a bail out from the coronavirus crisis.
“These airlines are filled with crew members who really care about how the virus impacts their airline and their customers. These people are needed now more than ever, yet across the globe airlines are reducing their workforce as the real impact of coronavirus is realised.”
30 Mar 2020
EasyJet grounds fleet
Low-cost airline EasyJet has confirmed it is grounding its entire fleet and is unable to give a date for any future return. It said it will continue to run rescue flights to bring British citizens stranded abroad back to the UK. EasyJet normally operates over 1,000 routes across Europe and more than 1,600 flights each day.
26 Mar 2020
American blocks middle seats to separate passengers
American Airlines has given gate agents the power to reassign seats to passengers in a bid to keep middle seats on its planes empty, as well as those close to flight attendant jump seats.
The airline has also suspended its checked pet service, although carry-on pets will still be allowed.
25 Mar 2020
Coronavirus 'an opportunity for airlines to build loyalty'
Nicholas Key, CEO at 15below, said in an interview with PhocusWire that communication is the key for airlines looking to successfully come through the coronavirus crisis.
"All the passengers understand this is a situation that is not the airlines’ fault but as with all these kind of situations it’s an opportunity to build loyalty to show passengers they are looking after them," he explained.
"The number one way to look after them I believe is by clear, accurate communications to give them the options, to allow them to self-serve to give them the waivers and the different vehicles airlines have to enable or empower their passengers to make those decisions."
Read Nicholas' full interview here.
25 Mar 2020
Hotel boss believes industry will recover by summer
Sebastien Bazin, CEO of hotel chain Accor, believes the hotel industry will recover from the coronavirus crisis by the summer.
Speaking in a video released to employees, he said Accor will "come back and basically be who we are" by the summer months.
23 Mar 2020
Ryanair reduces staff and executive pay for 2 months
Europe's largest airline, Ryanair has cut pay by 50% for all staff - including executives - during April and May.
Chief Executive Michael O'Leary says the low-cost carrier is currently working on a best-case scenario of two to three months without flights, but admits "honestly none of us have any idea".
"The priority here for us as a company is how do we preserve as much cash so that if we have to operate for three, six, nine, maybe even 12 months, with no flights and no revenues how do we survive that, do we have the cash to survive that and we believe we do," he adds.
23 Mar 2020
World's busiest airport to close
Dubai Airport, the busiest airport in the world, will effectively shut down from 25th March. The UAE has decided to suspend all passenger flights in and out of the country.
Al Tredinnick, Head of Business Development at 15below, says:
“With about 90 million people flying in or out of Dubai Airport each year, an indefinite shutdown will disrupt a huge number of passengers.
“Airlines will now be busy working through how this will affect their routes and those that haven’t cancelled flights yet will now have to do so.
“We are doing our best to provide our solution to any airline that doesn’t yet have it and may be struggling with manual systems. In most cases, we can implement the 15below base platform in just 72 hours, enabling airlines to reach all their passengers with only minimal human input.”
19 Mar 2020
Flight Centre utilising 15below platform to send bulk notifications to passengers
We received more positive feedback from Flight Centre this week. Flight Centre has been using the 15below platform to process and send large volumes of notifications to keep its customers informed of cancellations and updates to their itinerary.
James Gough, Website Customer Support at Flight Centre, says:
"I have been trying for the longest time to utilise [the 15below platform] to its fullest. Perhaps it's at this time of carnage that [we] can see the real benefits. Since I have been mass notifying customers, we have noticed our hold times drop MASSIVELY. So I'm very grateful for that!"
19 Mar 2020
Qantas suspends international flights
Qantas has announced all its international flights from Australia will be suspended from the end of March until at least the end of May.
15below will continue to work with Qantas to support its team as it works through the task of notifying all affected passengers.
18 Mar 2020
British Airways thanks 15below for coronavirus communications
It's an incredibly tough time for the industry right now, which makes us prouder than ever to know the 15below platform is making a difference to our customers. We've had some fantastic feedback this week, with British Airways the latest to get in touch. We've been processing and sending huge volumes of cancellation notifications and other messages for the airline to help it stay connected to its passengers every step of the way.
Michael O'Hagan, Commercial Operations Manager at British Airways, says:
"From all of us at BA, firstly let me thank you and the wider 15below team for the continuing support during these extraordinary times.
"We recognise that we and every other carrier in your extended family are communicating with customers like never before, and we couldn't do it without you.
"So thanks for the update and continuing support. Please pass on our heartfelt thanks to the rest of the 15below family."
To find out how automated communications benefit an airline in these difficult times compared with relying on a manual response, view our brand new infographic.
17 Mar 2020
Australian government announces $715m airline bailout
The Australian government will oversee a $715 million bailout to support airlines affected by the coronavirus outbreak. It will waive security levies, jet fuel excise and Airservices charges.
Alex Thornton, Head of Account Management, Asia-Pacific at 15below, says:
“This rescue package provides a much-needed boost to airlines across Australia that have been severely affected by the coronavirus.
“Airlines are being forced to operate in unprecedented circumstances and government support is the only way to ensure the survival of many of the world’s favourite carriers.
“I expect other countries to follow Australia’s policy and ease trading conditions for airlines to ensure crucial air routes and connections are able to resume as quickly as possible following the coronavirus crisis.”
17 Mar 2020
Australians told to return home
Australian citizens around the world have been urged to return to the country immediately due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised people to take the first available opportunity to use commercial travel to get home.
Alex Thornton, Head of Account Management, Asia-Pacific at 15below, responded to the news with an update on the situation in Australia:
"All airlines have been watching the government rules and reacted accordingly for both their home markets and destination markets. This period has been highly volatile as you might expect. Everything moves rapidly and airlines in Australia and the wider region are having to act fast.
"As we are now moving towards lockdowns, many airlines are taking appropriate steps to mitigate the impact. Social distancing rules are coming into place, making flying, psychologically, a potential risk, so airlines will have to combat this by taking decisive action to protect themselves in the short term.
"I expect to see airlines stop flying for a few weeks, like we have seen in China. They will continue to fly cargo to ensure the supply chain is maintained.
"This feels like we have hit that global reset button and we will come through this with new ideas to mitigate future risks, work in harmony with our neighbours and make travel environmentally sustainable.”
16 Mar 2020
Cebu Pacific using email and 'Manage my Booking' to process refunds
Cebu Pacific has issued new advice for passengers affected by flight cancellations.
We've been working with the airline to ensure it's been able to quickly and easily send a large volume of emails that allow it to stay connected to passengers throughout this period of disruption.
16 Mar 2020
British Airways and EasyJet to ground planes
British Airways has announced plans to cut capacity by at least 75% in April and May, while EasyJet believes it may have to ground most of its fleet.
We will continue to work with all our customers - including British Airways - to ease the operational load of communicating news of cancellations and changes to passengers.
13 Mar 2020
Ryanair and Aer Lingus remove flight change fees
Ryanair and Aer Lingus have given passengers more freedom to change flights they no longer want to take by removing all change fees.
Until 31st March, all Ryanair customers with either new or existing bookings will be able to switch to an alternative flight without incurring a fee. Aer Lingus will not charge for changes to online bookings made before 6th March for travel in March, April or May.
Ryanair has today used the 15below platform to process affected PNRs and send a high volume of notifications to passengers regarding this change of policy, helping to effectively keep its customers informed and empowered at this uncertain time.
12 Mar 2020
British Airways stresses importance of passenger contact details
Gemma Chalk, Head of Account Management, EMEA & Americas at 15below, says: "It's so important that passengers keep their contact details up to date in flight bookings so that airlines can continue to communicate updates in these fast moving circumstances.
"15below works with our airline customers, such as British Airways, to source contact details from multiple systems including the reservation system, CRMs, frequent flyer platforms and more to ensure we have the greatest reach with passengers."
Find out how to reach more passengers during disruption in our contactability blog.
12 Mar 2020
US bans flights from Europe
The US has announced a ban on all flights from the 26 European countries in the Schengen border-free travel area for 30 days as it attempts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Al Tredinnick, Head of Business Development at 15below, says:
“This news will clearly have a significant financial effect on all airlines operating to and from the US, but the operational impact will vary greatly between those that use a sophisticated passenger communications platform and others that still rely on manual processes.
“Informing hundreds of thousands of passengers of changes to their trip is a quick and simple task when using a specialist system, but a lengthy, inaccurate and expensive process if run through a call centre.
"Passengers will understand upcoming flight cancellations are out of the control of their airline, but they will still expect to receive clear and timely communications.
“It’s important for airlines to remember they are dealing with individuals. We know airlines care about their passengers and there is plenty of great data in each booking that we can help to extract that will allow them to deliver empathetic messages.
“Since the coronavirus outbreak began, we’ve seen an increase in interest from airlines that do not have a passenger communications platform in place. Many have already realised this is a challenge they can no longer tackle manually.
“That’s why we’ve made extra resource available to work with new customers to help them access our base platform. Following just a few days of implementation, an airline could be using our system to send all important coronavirus-related passenger communications in a matter of minutes. It’s not too late to act.”
11 Mar 2020
Ryanair cancels Italy flights
Ryanair has suspended all flights to, from and within Italy until 8th April. The airline is using the 15below platform to contact all affected passengers with information regarding their trip.
Gemma Chalk, Head of Account Management, EMEA and Americas at 15below, says:
“We are pleased to be able to support Ryanair as it uses the 15below platform to send an increased number of passenger notifications at this time.
“Ryanair has sent over two million notifications through the 15below platform over the last 10 days to ensure every passenger receives important, personalised information in relation to their flight. This includes details on how to move to an alternative flight or obtain a full refund.
“We will continue to work closely with all our customers over the coming weeks to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on their operations and to ensure they are able to quickly and reliably reach all their passengers with important updates.”
9 Mar 2020
15below reveals 23% increase in SMS sends and 19% rise in emails
New statistics from 15below show SMS sends via our platform increased by 23% in February year-on-year, while our customers also delivered 19% more emails to travellers. We've been helping many of our customers deal with the implications of the coronavirus by easily, quickly and reliably reaching passengers to inform them of cancellations and changes to their flights.
Nicholas Key, CEO at 15below, says:
“We are ready to support our customers by enabling them to meet the challenges posed by the coronavirus and manage the inevitable consequences, including mass flight cancellations.
“Managing this kind of widespread travel disruption is exactly what the 15below platform is designed to do best. We have the capacity and processing power to allow airlines to send tens of thousands of messages to passengers in just a few minutes with minimal human input, freeing staff to focus on the wider impact.
“The coronavirus undoubtedly presents a difficult and challenging scenario for airlines, but great passenger communications will be key to managing it successfully.
“If any airlines or travel companies would like advice on how to tackle the specific challenges presented by COVID-19 they should get in touch.”
6 Mar 2020
Southwest CEO: Decline in bookings "not too shocking" but an "overreaction"
Southwest CEO Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has revealed his airline has suffered a "very noticeable, precipitous decline in bookings" in the last week as the spread of the coronavirus continues. Mr Kelly said the trend is not surprising considering the anxiety many people are feeling, adding: "I definitely think it's an overreaction, but nonetheless it is happening."
5 Mar 2020
Flybe goes into administration
Everybody at 15below is extremely sad to learn of the collapse of Flybe, a customer of ours since 2018. The UK regional carrier announced this morning it was going into administration, revealing the coronavirus is partly to blame for its demise.
Gemma Chalk, Head of Account Management, EMEA & Americas at 15below, says:
"The whole team at 15below are deeply saddened by the news of the collapse of Flybe on 5th March. I know that the past couple of years has been a lot of work and a real struggle for the team including a large IT and PSS migration, periods of uncertainty, then the high of being rescued by the Connect Airways consortium.
"We have worked very closely with the fantastically talented team at Flybe through their PSS migration and adoption of the 15below platform integrated with Amadeus for Disruption management. We have developed great working relationships with the team and are continuing to do all we can to support them at this time.
"Despite their entering into administration, the 15below platform remains available to Flybe to continue to contact their affected passengers and keep them informed as plans evolve. 15below is doing all we can to ease this very difficult time for Flybe and their passengers.
"We are sending our best wishes to the Flybe team."
5 Mar 2020
IATA updates revenue forecast
IATA has updated its analysis of the financial impact of the coronavirus on the global air transport industry. The industry body now believes airlines will suffer a reduction in revenue of between $63 billion and $113 billion in 2020; significantly higher than its February estimate of $29.2 billion.
4 Mar 2020
British Airways offers passengers increased flexibility
British Airways has introduced free changes for all passengers booking flights between 3rd and 16th March. Travellers will be able to change their booking to any date in the next 12 months if required.
4 Mar 2020
AirAsia X offers annual pass to entice travellers
Malaysian budget airline AirAsia X has launched a one-year pass for unlimited flights to Australia, Japan, Korea, China and India. Costing just $119, the ticket is one of the most innovative responses to the impact of the coronavirus seen so far.
3 Mar 2020
TUI bookings hit but still up on 2019
TUI Group says that it has “experienced weaker bookings in the last week” following the outbreaks in northern Italy and Tenerife, but “due to the strong trading prior to last week, year-to-date bookings remain well above prior year”.
27 Feb 2020
JetBlue is first airline to offer free change and cancellation options
JetBlue has suspended all change and cancellation fees for new flight bookings made between 27th February and 11th March for travel through to 1st June. The policy will allow passengers to book flights in confidence as they will be able to amend or cancel their booking without penalty should the impact of coronavirus on travel change.