Airlines slash routes and extend free rebooking

The CoVid-19 Coronavirus has further savaged airline schedules, with mass cancellations, route terminations, and savage frequency reductions to and from almost everywhere the virus has appeared.

Business travel has been dropped by concerned corporations around the world. One close to me personally, yesterday told nearly 2,000 frequent flying staff to cut all flights immediately and cancel existing tickets, and cancelled all business meetings in person. This is now becoming the norm.

Finnair yesterday announced temporary lay offs, suspended all China routes and Seoul, delayed new routes to Busan, dropped Osaka and Tokyo and reduced Hong Kong to one a day from two. It’s also been forced to cancel flights to Milan. For a relatively small airline, this is nearly disastrous.

US airlines have dropped routes to every infected area in Asia, staff are being offered paid and unpaid leave, and none of this is unusual, it’s happening everywhere to one degree or another.

One fascinating aspect is that airlines are so desperate to protect their customer relationships they’re cutting back nearly all restrictions on rebooking tickets, suddenly discovering a sense of self preserving generosity.

Meanwhile with scientists predicting the peak of the infection won’t be reached until May-June, Japanese airlines are panicking over the summer Olympics due to take place in August.

The European holiday companies like Tui and Jet2 are also seeing sharp declines in bookings.

The customer may well find that when the crisis is over, there will be a vast number of cheap holidays and flights available later in the year.

In the meantime longer term implications of the financial losses are worrying Airbus and Boeing. It may not mean cancellations of existing orders, but the loss of future ones, especially on long haul aircraft seems inevitable. At the very least deferments seem likely as cash strapped airlines recover post crisis.