London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 13 April 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

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British Airways Boeing 777-300 Aircraft, Shanghai, April 2020
British Airways Boeing 777-300 Aircraft Cargo Shipments, Shanghai, April 2020 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 13 April 2020.

This should have been one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Today, at London Heathrow, excluding cargo only and charter flights, BA will operate just 3 UK domestic, 7 short-haul and 4 transatlantic flights. There are around 35 flights from 23 other airlines over a period of around 12 hours.

There’s no shortage of think-pieces on what the long term impact of COVID-19 will be. The honest answer is that nobody knows.

Lufthansa is one of the first airlines to announce firm fleet reduction plans.

It will retire 6 out of 14 Airbus A380 aircraft, 7 out of 17 Airbus A340-600 aircraft, 3 out of 17 Airbus A340-300 aircraft and 5 out of 13 Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Short-haul aircraft will also be reduced.

Other Lufthansa Group airlines will also reduce their fleets. Lufthansa expect demand to remain subdued into 2021 and will not recover to 2019 levels until 2023.

This is, perhaps, not quite as dramatic as it first sounds. These aircraft were due to be retired in any event. Lufthansa has not yet said anything about deferring deliveries of new long-haul aircraft, of which the group has nearly 70 on order.

Norwegian has, unsurprisingly, delayed its plan to restart flights at Gatwick until 1 June 2020.

Norwegian is also pursuing another financial restructuring which involves a debt-for-equity swap. This is in order to secure further financial support of up to NOK270 million (~£21 million) from the Norwegian Government. The official announcement alludes to a “new Norwegian” which suggests further changes are forthcoming.

The first weekly Qantas service from Melbourne, via Perth, arrived at London Heathrow this morning.

Only economy tickets are on sale with many seats in the economy cabin blocked off. Though looking at seat maps some premium economy seats seem open for selection. Flights operate with limited food and beverage and no in-flight entertainment. The return to Perth will depart London Heathrow on Wednesday morning.

On a related note, this is a good primer from Qantas on what is involved in preparing aircraft for storage.

A number of airlines are now focusing efforts on cargo-only flights.

American Airlines has added twice weekly cargo-only flights between London Heathrow and New York JFK.

Air Canada is in the process of converting three Boeing 777-300 passenger aircraft, which ordinarily operate with no less than 422 seats, to cargo only.

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

Air France-KLM is reported to be in discussions to secure state aid of up to €10 billion. This could include state guaranteed loans of up to €8 billion for Air France and €2 billion for KLM. (La Tribune)

The Australian Federal Government is in discussions with Qantas and Virgin Australia about subsiding domestic flights to maintain links within Australia. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Qantas’ budget airline Jetstar has confirmed it is in discussions with its joint-venture partner Vietnamese Airlines about the future of Jetstar Pacific, which may involve a disposal of its stake in the airline. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Cathay Pacific will temporarily transfer flights at London Heathrow from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 from Thursday 16 April 2020.

The parent of Polish airline LOT has withdrawn a bid to buy Condor. (Reuters)

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