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Airlines Slash Capacity, Ground Aircraft As Crisis Continues

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300 A333 depart Dulles Airport Washington

A Virgin Atlantic A330 departs from Washington Dulles International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Peter Weiland)

The continued uncertainty and unprecedented disruption to the aviation industry due to the novel coronavirus pandemic will result in significant losses for airlines. Schedules are being constantly amended as governments seek to contain the spread of the virus by limiting passenger movement.

In addition to the U.S. travel ban for residents of European countries in the Schengen zone, a growing number of countries have also instigated restrictions. India has suspended visas for visitors from all countries for at least a month from Friday until April 15.

Kuwait will close its international airport, all workplaces, restaurants, cafes and malls for a two week period from Friday. A number of countries including Israel have instigated mandated 14 day quarantine periods for all visitors and returning residents.

Looking down at a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 at Washington Dulles (Photo: Ryan Ewing)

The downturn in airline passenger demand because of travel restrictions and general concern about the virus has resulted in tens of thousands of flights being cancelled, removing millions of seats from airlines offered capacity.

The Lufthansa Group announced on Wednesday, prior to the EU travel ban, that it would be cancelling over 23,000 flights between March 29 and April 24. The numbers are expected to grow exponentially as the full effect on airline schedules of Thursday’s decision by the U.S. is analyzed and implemented.

An impact of the cancellation of thousands of flights has been the grounding of hundreds of aircraft around the world as capacity is removed from the market. While this is seen as a temporary move by most airlines to limit costs, FlightGlobal has reported that Virgin Atlantic has retired its remaining A340-600 aircraft from its fleet earlier than was expected. Though the airline has not confirmed this publicly, FlightGlobal reports that the remaining three aircraft, which were expected to fly through the northern summer, were put into storage in early March.

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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