US-European airlines panic over staggering rise in US Covid cases

By now everyone was expecting a situation where, as with the U.K. and Europe for example, case loads had been crushed to minimums and local outbreaks contained, or containable.

With that in mind the airlines were planning on reopening a wide spectrum of trans-Atlantic operations, aiming to build up routes and capacity to take advantage of the rest of the northern summer season.

For many reasons, cultural, misinformation, political ineptitude, lack of leadership at the highest levels, and even behavioural, the US is in a full blown pandemic again, with cases exceeding 52,000 a day and the highest proportion are 18-39 year olds. Lockdowns are being reimposed and businesses closed down for a second time. Warnings that 100,000 a day is almost inevitable unless people change their behaviour have been made.

Southern states especially, from California to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, Texas, Nevada and Arizona are inundated with hospital admissions.

The airlines are horrified in private, deeply concerned at how this will affect their plans. The Europeans are now planning on operating flights to areas that most tourists travel to – Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orlando, Houston, Austin, Miami, Atlanta, and are unlikely to have already recalcitrant passengers to operate them in any worthwhile manner.

Add to that the problem of US citizens being unable to fly to Europe without spending 14 days in quarantine on arrival, the same applies to returning travellers.

Even more of a deterrent is that government issued warnings are rendering passenger travel insurance void, rendering their medical cover useless.

The US Airlines are planning more routes from August to Europe, but many are likely to be held back. Lack of bookings with a looming quarantine on arrival is a stiff deterrent.

For the Europeans it’s probably worse. Airlines like BA and especially Virgin Atlantic are highly dependent of the US market. Air France, KLM, SAS, Lufthansa and Swiss especially all really need to get long haul to the US up and running again, it’s one of their biggest profit centres.

It’s not just Europe, South Korea, Japan and China are growing more wary about letting flights resume, and even if they did the risk for travellers is too much to make bookings.

For US airlines international travel is a secondary operation. Their long haul is a vastly smaller percentage of their revenues than for European airlines – around 21%, where in Europe it’s around 40%.

Either way, airlines are going to suffer and air travel normalisation will be held back even more, risking economic recovery, jobs and lives on both sides of the Atlantic.

I love going to America, we have many friends on both coasts and a house south of San Francisco, where this time of year I’d normally be. Even in September we won’t be going. To me that’s a really painful realisation. We all want normalcy, so, please, on July 4th weekend and every day, STAY SAFE!