Coronavirus: Airlines Scramble for Survival

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 outbreak, the commercial aviation industry has been hit hard by the resulting reduction in air travel. To stay afloat, global carriers are implementing drastic measures including grounding aircraft, forcing staff to take unpaid leave and cancelling thousands of flights.

The Key Publishing commercial aviation team has put together a list of what some of the biggest names have done so far to deal with this rapidly evolving situation.

*all information correct of March 16.

Delta Air Lines
Many carriers including Delta Air Lines have increased aircraft cleaning practices. Delta Air Lines



Moscow, Russia

  • The flag carrier has temporarily suspended services between Moscow and Barcelona, Bukhara, Chisinau, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Munich, Oslo, Prague, Samarkand, Tallinn, Tashkent, Thessaloniki, Vienna, Vilnius, Warsaw and Zurich. Most connections have been suspended until the end of April.
  • Aeroflot is evaluating the possibility of operating charter flights on suspended routes to enable Russian citizens to return to Russia.
  • The airline will continue to operate services from Moscow to Amsterdam, Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Dublin, Geneva, Helsinki, Larnaca, Lisbon, Ljubljana, London, Madrid, Paris, Riga, Rome, Sofia, Stockholm, Tivat and Zagreb.



Mārupe, Latvia

  • The Latvian government has decided to tighten the security measures and suspend international air traffic starting March 17.
  • As a result, all airBaltic connections will be temporarily suspended starting on March 17 until April 14, 2020 inclusive. This includes operations of airBaltic from Estonia and Lithuania.
  • The company ran additional services on March 16 to allow passengers to transit before the ban came into effect.
Latvian carrier airBaltic has suspended all flights until April 14. airBaltic


Air New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

  • The airline will reduce capacity by 30% on domestic routes and on international services by 85%. 
  • The Kiwi carrier suspended trading on the New Zealand stock exchange on March 16 to allow it “time to assess the operational and financial impact of the government’s new travel restrictions and to prepare an announcement to the market.” The halt will remain in place until March 18 or until an announcement is made by the airline.
  • Among the long haul network capacity reductions, the airline has advised it is suspending flights between Auckland and Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Tokyo/Narita, Honolulu, Denpasar and Taipei from March 30 to June 30. It is also suspending its London to Los Angeles service from March 20 (ex-LAX) and March 21 (ex-LHR) until June 30.
  • The airline’s board of directors will take a 15% pay cut until the end of this calendar year.


Air France-KLM

Paris, France

  • Air France-KLM Group will reduce its flight activity significantly over the next few days (from March 16), with the number of available seat kilometres (ASK) potentially decreasing by as much as 70-90%.
  • Air France will ground its entire Airbus A380 fleet and KLM its entire Boeing 747 fleet.
  • The capacity reduction is expected to last two months from March 16.
  • Additional cost savings have been identified which will generate €200m in 2020.
  • The group estimates that the drop in revenue from the passenger business will only be offset by around 50% by the drop in variable costs (fuel, airport fees etc) before cost saving measures.


American Airlines

Dallas/Fort Worth, USA

  • The carrier is set to reduce its international capacity by 75% year-on-year, from March 16 to May 6.
  • It will “continue short-haul international flying, which includes flights to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and certain markets in the northern part of South America, as scheduled.” (as per a March 14 press statement)
  • In addition to the international changes, the airline anticipates its domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20% compared to last year and May’s domestic capacity will be reduced by 30% compared to 2019 levels.
  • American Airlines will “continue to operate one flight daily from Dallas/Fort Worth to London/Heathrow, one flight daily from Miami to London/Heathrow and three flights per week from DFW to Tokyo/Narita”.
Monitoring passenger temperatures has been common around the world for departing and arriving travellers. Emirates


Austrian Airlines

Vienna, Austria

  • All flights will be removed from the flight schedule until further notice from March 18. (as per a March 16 press statement)
  • One long-haul and one medium-haul aircraft will remain in use for emergency and relief flights.
  • The last flight departing Chicago will land in Vienna on March 19. Until then, flight operations will be scaled back “in a controlled and structured manner in order to bring all passengers, crews and aircraft home if possible”.
  • The grounding will continue until at least March 28.


Delta Air Lines

Atlanta, USA

  • Following the US travel directive, from March 16 there will be one daily flight between the following hubs: Atlanta to Amsterdam, London/Heathrow and Paris/Charles de Gaulle. New York/JFK to London/Heathrow and Detroit to Amsterdam/Schiphol.
  • Heathrow to Detroit suspended after March 16. Dublin to JFK suspended from March 18.
  • Delta is suspending service to Guatemala City, Guatemala (between March 22 and April 19); Quito, Ecuador (from March 16 to April 19); and the island of St Maarten (from March 16 to March 30).
  • Suspended Colombia flights. Bogota (from JFK March 18, and Atlanta March 25) and Cartagena (from Atlanta March 24).
Delta Air Lines
Techniques such as 'fogging' have been implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19. Delta Air Lines



Luton, UK

  • Potential grounding of the majority of the fleet.
  • In a statement, the company said: “EasyJet maintains a strong balance sheet including a £1.6bn cash balance, an undrawn $500m revolving credit facility, unencumbered aircraft worth in excess of £4bn and a large and valuable slot portfolio.”
  • easyJet says it will “continue to operate rescue flights for short periods where we can”, in order to repatriate customers.



Dubai, UAE

  • Has cancelled scheduled operations to 30 international destinations.
  • Amman: From March 17 to March 31, Baghdad: From March 17 to March 31, Bangkok- Hong Kong: From March 9 –March 31, Basra: From March 17 to March 31, Beirut: From March 17 to March 31, Bologna: From March 13 –April 3, Casablanca: From March 16 to March 31, Dammam: From March 9 until further notice, Fort Lauderdale: March 13 to 31, Guangzhou: From February 5 until further notice, Istanbul: From March 17 - March 31, Istanbul: From March 17 - March 31, Jeddah: From March 9 until further notice, Kuwait City: From March 14 to 31 March, Larnaca: From March 17 to 31, Malta (via Larnaca): From March 17 to 31, Medina: From March 9 until further notice, Milan: From March 13 to April 3, New York/JFK – Milan: March 11 to April 12, New York/Newark – Athens: March 13 to April 12, Peshawar: From March 15 to March 31, flights to/from Peshawar will be rerouted through Islamabad. Porto: From March 17 to March 31, Riyadh: From March 9 until March 31, Rome: From March 14 to April 3, Shanghai: From February 5 until further notice, Sialkot: From March 15 to March 31, flights to/from Sialkot will be re-routed through Lahore. Taipei: From March 16 until further notice, Tehran: From February 26 until further notice, Venice: From March 12 to April 3, Warsaw: From March 15 to March 28. 
Medical checks have been in place for Emirates customers at Dubai/International. Emirates



Helsinki/Vantaa, Finland

  • Finnair will reduce its capacity by 90% compared to 2019, starting in April.
  • The airline will only operate 20 routes, from a route network that originally served up to 121 destinations.
  • Cancellation of between 1,500 to 2,000 flights from March 16 to March 31.
  • From April 1, Finnair will operate only the following flights, providing additional travel restrictions aren’t implemented: Kuopio, Mariehamn, Oulu, Rovaniemi, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Zürich and Tokyo
  • A proposed dividend of 0.20 euros per share for shareholders will now not go ahead.


IAG (Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, LEVEL, Vueling)

London, UK and Madrid, Spain

  • For April and May, the group plans to reduce capacity “by at least 75%” compared with the same period in 2019.
  • IAG plans to ground all surplus aircraft, reduce or defer capital spending, freeze recruitment and implement voluntary leave options.
  • The group says it has strong cash reserves of €9.3bn. Willie Walsh, group CEO has said the airline hasn’t asked for state aid yet.
  • Iberia chief executive, Luis Gallego will continue in his role for “the next few months to lead the response in Spain”. Willie Walsh will also extend his tenure as group chief executive and Javier Sanchez will remain as Vueling chief executive. Willie Walsh was due to retire with Gallego due to succeed him. Sanchez was due to succeed Gallego at Iberia.


Korean Air

Seoul, South Korea

  • 89 out of the airline’s 124 routes have been suspended as of March 13.
  • The number of operating international flights has been reduced by approximately 86%, following a significant drop in demand.
  • Korean Air has started to use passenger aircraft to transport cargo on suspended passenger routes such as those to Ho Chi Minh City and Qingdao.
  • In a statement, the airline said: “On March 13, Korean Air transported emergency supplies and agricultural products from Korean companies with an Airbus A330-300, which can carry 20 tons of cargo, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a passenger route that has been suspended from March 3.  In addition, from March 21, the airline plans to deploy more passenger aircraft, which have been idle from February 25, to transport cargo to Qingdao. Korean Air plans to expand its destinations and cargo items to be transported by the grounded passenger aircraft.”
Korean Air
Korean's international flights have been reduced by nearly 90%. Korean Air


LOT Polish Airlines

Warsaw, Poland

  • Suspended all international flights from Poland and Hungary.
  • Warsaw to Miami, Newark, Los Angeles, Budapest and New York/JFK were suspended from March 14 and will last until April 13, 2020.
  • This follows the Polish government implementing border restrictions on foreign travellers for ten days.



Oslo, Norway

  • Cancelling 85% of flights and temporarily laying off 7,300 staff (90% of its workforce).
  • From March 21, the company will primarily fly a reduced schedule domestically in Norway and between the Nordic capitals. Some European flights will be operated. All intercontinental flights are cancelled except flights between Scandinavia and Thailand (last flights at the end of March).
  • Limited schedule will remain in place until at least April 17 but will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with changes in travel restrictions and demand.
Norwegian has cancelled 85% of its flights. Norwegian 



Dublin, Ireland

  • For April and May, Ryanair expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80%.
  • Ryanair anticipates the restrictions will see the grounding of the majority of its fleet across Europe over the next seven to ten days (from March 16).
  • The airline says a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out.
  • “The Ryanair Group has strong liquidity, with strong cash and cash equivalents of over €4bn as of March 12”, the company said in a statement.
  • Cost reduction plans include: “grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending, and implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significant reductions to working hours and payments”.



Stockholm, Sweden

  • The airline plans to operate all domestic routes with “few exceptions”.
  • Routes between the Scandinavian capitals as well as Copenhagen to Bergen, Gothenburg and Stavanger will continue to operate as normal.
  • Routes to Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, London/Heathrow, Manchester, Paris, Reykjavik, Zurich, Alicante, Las Palmas, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, Nice and Athens will all continue to operate.
  • “With consideration to our customers SAS will within the next few days, as far as it is possible maintain certain traffic in order to enable return flights from different destinations.”
  • Plans to temporarily layoff 10,000 staff up to 90% of its workforce.
  • Will resume flights when there “are yet again conditions to conduct commercial aviation.”
Scandinavian Airlines reduced its international flight schedule. SAS



Santiago, Chile

  • Reducing international flights by 30%. This will apply to flights from South America to Europe and the US between April 1 and May 30.
  • Other measures include the suspension of new investments, expenses and hiring, as well as incentives for unpaid leave and to bring forward vacations.



Sydney, Australia

  • Set to reduce capacity by at least 25% for the next six months.
  • These additional changes will bring the total international capacity reduction for Qantas and Jetstar from 5% to 23% versus the same time last year and extend these cuts until mid-September 2020. (according to a March 10 press release)
  • “The biggest reductions remain focussed on Asia (now down 31% compared with the same period last year). Capacity reductions to the United States (down 19%), the UK (down 17%) and Trans-Tasman (down 10%) will also be made in line with forward booking trends.”
  • Eight of the airline’s 12 Airbus A380s are set to be grounded until September. Two are currently undergoing scheduled heavy maintenance, with the remaining two remaining in service.
  • In response to strong customer demand for the direct Perth-London/Heathrow service, the existing Sydney-Singapore-Heathrow return service (QF1 and QF2) will be temporarily re-routed to become a Sydney-Perth-London service from April 20.
  • The airline has $1.9bn in cash plus a further $1bn in undrawn facilities and $4.9bn in unencumbered assets.
  • Maintenance work on aircraft is set to be brought forward to make best use of the downtime.


TUI Airways

Luton, UK

  • Cancelled all flights to Spain between March 14 and March 29.
  • Cancelled operations to the USA (following Trump ban on foreign visitors) from March 16.
  • Trips to Jamaica, Vietnam, Cyprus, Malta, Tunisia, Croatia, Italy, Goa, Sri Lanka, St Lucia and Bali have all been cancelled.
  • The group has cash and available facilities of approximately €1.4bn and year-to-date performance had been in-line with expectations prior to COVID-19 according to the firm.
  • “Moreover, we have decided to apply for state aid guarantees to support the business until normal operations are resumed.”


Ukraine International

Kyiv, Ukraine

  • Suspended all international flights from midnight March 17 until March 31.
  • All foreigners will be banned from entering the country to stop the spread of infection.
  • The last inbound international flights are on March 17.
  • During the above period, domestic and charter flights will be maintained.
Ukraine International
Ukraine International has suspended all international flights until the end of March. Ukraine International


Virgin Atlantic Airways

Crawley, UK

  • The airline will see an 80% reduction in flights per day by March 26, parking approximately 75% of the fleet by the same date. During April this will go up to 85%.
  • Virgin will reduce services to focus on core routes, depending on customer demand. The London/Heathrow-Newark route will be permanently terminated with immediate effect.
  • Staff will be asked to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months' salary, to drastically reduce costs without job losses.
  • Shai Weiss, the carrier’s CEO has extended his 20% pay cut to the end of 2020, with the executive leadership team agreeing a decrease of 15% for the same period. 


Wizz Air

Budapest, Hungary

  • Suspended all flights to Poland and Latvia following the travel ban on March 14.
  • Wizzair stopped services to Moldova from March 15.