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Major Airlines to suspend flights, lay off staff over coronavirus

By Reuters | March 17th 2020

FILE PHOTO: Norwegian Air Sweden Boeing 737-800 plane SE-RRY takes off in Riga International Airport in Riga, Latvia January 17, 2020. [Reuters]

Belgium’s Brussels airlines, a Lufthansa subsidiary, is the latest to suspend all flights as beginning Saturday until April 19 over coronavirus, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances caused by the worldwide coronavirus crisis, Brussels Airlines has decided to temporarily suspend its flight operations,” said the airlines, a subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa.

The company is also reducing from Tuesday its flight schedule until March 20. Customers will be offered a chance to reschedule flights, it added.

Given the extraordinary circumstances caused by the worldwide Coronavirus crisis, we have decided to temporarily suspend our flight operations from 21/03 until 19/04 included.

Norwegian Air (NWC.OL) also cancelled 85% of its flights and will temporarily lay off 7,300 employees as a result of the growing coronavirus crisis that has strangled demand for air travel, the carrier said on Monday.

Virgin Atlantic also announced plans to ask staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months, to help the airline cope during the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline is one of many to have brought in drastic measures to cope with a fall in passenger demand, due to global travel restrictions and the reluctance to travel due to the disease.

Bosses said the cost would be spread over six months' salary to "drastically reduce costs without job losses".

US President Donald Trump extended his restrictions on travel from Europe on Saturday to include Britain, Norwegian’s biggest destination for transatlantic flights, while other nations also severely limited air traffic.

Norwegian Air said the temporarily layoffs made up about 90% of its workforce and included pilots, cabin crew, maintenance and administrative staff.

“What our industry is now facing is unprecedented and critical as we are approaching a scenario where most of our airplanes will be temporarily grounded,” it added.

A pioneer in transatlantic budget travel since 2013, Norwegian Air quickly became the largest foreign airline serving the New York region and a major player at other US airports.

All flights to the United States will now be suspended, the company said.

“As of March 21, the company will primarily fly a reduced scheduled domestically in Norway and between the Nordic capitals,” it said. “Limited schedule will remain in place until at least April 17 but will be reviewed on a regular basis.”

Norwegian Air’s shares fell 14% on Monday to a 15-year low of 6.7 crowns in Oslo and are down 82% this year.

Having lost money each year from 2017 to 2019 and raised cash from shareholders on three occasions, the company’s debts and liabilities had grown to 82 billion Norwegian crowns ($7.9 billion) by the end of last year.

The carrier and the industry associations it belongs to have called on authorities in Norway, Britain and elsewhere to help. Norwegian Air said on Friday it needed access to cash “within weeks, not months”.

Norway’s minority government said last week it was looking at measures it could take to help the industry, and the opposition on Monday called for specific measure to help protect jobs and companies.

Scandinavian airline SAS (SAS.ST) said on Sunday it would halt most traffic and temporarily lay off up to 10,000 employees, or 90% of the workforce.

Covid 19 Time Series


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