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Great time to buy airline tickets

Now is a great time to purchase airline tickets for travel
in the second half of 2020. 

Domestic budget fares through September averaged just $139
roundtrip on March 31, said Hayley Berg, an economist for booking platform
Hopper. That’s a drop of 47% since the Covid-19 crisis caused prices to begin
plummeting in early March. Hopper defines budget fares as the lowest 10% of the
fare quotes it tracks.

“Our expectation is that prices will stay low for probably a
few months at least,” Berg said. “It will probably take until well after this
year for prices to recover to where they were, if they ever recover.”

The sharp economic decline — along with uncertainty about
how long social-distancing measures, stay-at-home orders and travel
restrictions will continue — looms over booking decisions even for the second
half of this year. But right now, airlines are offering an antidote to
uncertainty in the form of change-fee waivers. United and American, for
example, are waiving change fees for 12 months from the time of booking for all
flights purchased by April 30. Delta has the same offer in place for bookings
through April 15. Southwest never charges change fees. 

A March 20 Hopper analysis found that the destinations with
the best domestic deals for June through August were Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona
Beach, Chicago and Flagstaff, Ariz. Budget tickets to Miami were down 45% from
a year earlier. 

For domestic travel in September, October and the first half
of November, flights to Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Denver and
Charlotte were down the most compared with a year earlier. Budget ticket prices
to Chicago were off the most at 29%. 

Outside the U.S., budget ticket prices for the summer are
down the most to Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Barcelona;
Athens; and Paris.

For the fall, budget airfares are down the most by percentage
on flights to Medellin, Colombia; Lima, Peru; Bogota, Colombia; and Santo Domingo
and Santiago, D.R.

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Vietnam Airlines to further cut domestic services

Vietnam Airlines has confirmed it will continue to reduce the frequency of domestic flights.

The move is designed to further enhance preventive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

Vietnam has been among the most proactive destinations in tackling the outbreak, with less than 200 recorded cases of coronavirus to date.

Until April 15th, Vietnam Airlines will operate one return flight per day between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; and between Da Nang and Phu Quoc.

All other routes are temporarily suspended until further notice.

Flight schedule during this period will be monitored and adjusted flexibly according to the operational situation, the carrier said.

The flight crew on all flights – consisting of pilots, flight attendants and technical staff – will be equipped with protective gear, including suits, gloves, face masks and glasses.

The airline will also conduct the SARS-CoV-2 test for all of its pilots and flight attendants.

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South African Airways grounds domestic flights for three weeks

South African Airways will suspend all domestic flights from tomorrow until April 16th.

The decision came after the South African government announced a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days aimed at combatting the spread of Covid-19. 

Last Friday, the flag-carrier announced the suspension of all intercontinental and Africa regional flights until the end of May.

A new updated re-booking policy has also been launched, allowing passengers to move bookings until March 2022.

This new policy goes beyond the industry norm, the airline said, where tickets are usually valid for 12 months for international travel. 

For passengers, a summary of the new rebooking policy can be found here, while for members of the travel industry, further ticketing information can be found here.

South African Airways’ suspension to operations was in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Following the declaration of the state of disaster in South Africa, the government announced a travel ban and issued regulations, which introduced certain measures aimed at combatting the spread or transmission of the virus. 

Among other things, the regulations said that crew from high risk countries shall be subject to medical screening and quarantined for 21 days. 

“South African Airways supports this national effort as announced by the government, to retard, contain, manage and disrupt the rate of transmission of the Covid-19 and apologises for any inconvenience to its customers travel plans further to the global pandemic,” concluded a statement.

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Airline Announces Major Cuts to Staff as Demand Dwindles

The second-largest airline in Canada announced Tuesday over half of its employees would be leaving the company as the coronavirus outbreak continues to cause a decline in demand.

According to The Associated Press, WestJet CEO Ed Sims revealed around 6,900 of the 14,000 employees at the airline have either retired early, resigned or were laid off. The carrier announced 90 percent of departing workers did so voluntarily.

Sims said the decision was made to cut costs and stabilize the airline as it temporarily suspended all international flights for 30 days and dramatically cut back on domestic service.

“It is through these WestJetters’ sacrifices that we can preserve a core of people who will remain employed to prepare for the moment when the situation stabilizes, and we can look to rise again,” Sims said in a statement.

WestJet asked employees last week to decide how they wanted to help the carrier survive the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus, including unpaid leave of absence, early retirement, voluntary resignation, reduced workweek or reduced pay.

Sims went on to say the airline’s executive team took a 50 percent pay cut and vice presidents and directors took a 25 percent pay cut. The carrier continues to work with the federal government about possible support.

Canadian airline Air Canada also announced its pilot union said up to 600 of its members will go on unpaid leave in the coming months due to the pandemic, while U.S. carriers are drafting plans to temporarily stop flying entirely.

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Air Canada latest airline to announce huge layoffs

Air Canada has revealed plans to cut 5,000 jobs in the coming weeks as the carrier battles the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline, along with lost-cost subsidiary Rouge, has been forced to ground hundreds of international and domestic flights as travel comes to a virtual standstill.

The flag-carrier said it was cutting 3,600 employees from Air Canada itself and more than 1,500 from the discount carrier.

The cuts, which make up nearly 60 per cent of the total flight staff, will come in April.

The job losses mark the latest setback for airlines around the world which are collectively expected to lose more than US$130 billion in the coming months.

Dubai-based Emirates said earlier that it would ground the majority of its fleet from Wednesday.

Air Canada will halt the majority of its international services by the end of March.

The airline was among the 20 largest airlines in the world, and employs nearly 30,000 staff worldwide.

Employees were advised of the pending layoffs earlier and will learn their fate in the next two days.

The company has said the layoffs are temporary – and that most of those affected will return once the airline ramps up its operating schedule.

At least four flight attendants with the company have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Repatriation

Air Canada has also announced that, in collaboration with the Canadian government, it will operate two more special flights from Morocco.

These flights follow a successful special flight completed March 21st in which Air Canada brought 444 Canadians home.

These two additional flights are currently scheduled to operate on March 23rd and 25th from Casablanca to Montreal with a 450-seat wide-body aircraft.

“The Covid 19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis in the global aviation industry that is already having a significant impact on the air transport industry, travellers, shippers and the economy.

“Right now, our priority is to help Canadians who are abroad to return to Canada.

“The government of Canada is working with Air Canada to bring Canadians home from locations that are particularly challenging.

“I am pleased to see these flights beginning this weekend,” declared Marc Garneau, Canada minister of transport.

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Emirates to ground majority of fleet from Wednesday as Covid-19 toll grows

Emirates will temporarily cease most passenger operations this week as the world battles an outbreak of coronavirus.

The Dubai-based airline said it would ground almost all passenger services from March 25th, with no date in place for the resumption of flights.

Emirates said it would continue to operate a small number of passenger flights to the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, the United States and Canada.

The carrier added that the situation remains dynamic, with travellers able to check the latest flight status online.

The news comes as IATA warns over the viability of airlines in the Middle East, and Etihad seeks to reassure passengers about its long-term prospects.

Emirates said it had aimed to maintain passenger flights for as long as feasible to help travellers return home amid an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions and country lockdowns.

With many of its airline customers dramatically reducing flights or ceasing services altogether, dnata has also significantly reduced its operations, including temporarily shutting some offices across its international network.

Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chief executive of Emirates Group, said: “The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint.

“Until January, the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets – but Covid-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past six weeks.”

The Emirates Group has also undertaken a series of measures to contain costs, as the outlook for travel demand remains weak across markets in the short- to medium-term.

These include postponing or cancelling discretionary expenditure, a freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work and talks with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency.

Al Maktoum added: “As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns.

“By Wednesday, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations.

“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”

Emirates employees will be asked to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying capacity, while pay cuts of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent will be introduced.

On the decision to reduce basic salary, Al Maktoum said: “Rather than ask employees to leave the business, we chose to implement a temporary basic salary cut as we want to protect our workforce and keep our talented and skilled people, as much as possible.

“We want to avoid cutting jobs.

“When demand picks up again, we also want to be able to quickly ramp up and resume services for our customers.”

In the longer-term, Al Maktoum said the carrier would endure.

“Emirates Group has a strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality,” he concluded.

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Cathay Pacific to run skeleton flight schedule for two months

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon will reduce capacity by 96 per cent across passenger networks in April and May in light of the severe drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hong Kong-based carriers are responding to the multiple government travel restrictions that form part of the global health response plan to the outbreak.
Freighter capacity remains intact for the period.

Our ability to maintain even this skeleton schedule will depend on whether more travel restrictions are imposed by governments around the world which will further dampen passenger demand.

Cathay Pacific chief customer and commercial officer, Ronald Lam, said: “As Hong Kong’s home airlines, it is important that we continue to provide important passenger and cargo connections to and from the Hong Kong hub.

“We will therefore endeavour to maintain a minimal number of flights to and from key destinations in our network to ensure these vital arteries remain open.

“While our freighter network remains intact, we are also ramping up our cargo capacity by mounting charter services and operating certain suspended passenger services purely for airfreight to meet cargo customer demand.”

He added: “We need to take difficult but decisive measures as the scale of the challenge facing the global aviation industry is unprecedented.

“We have no choice but to significantly reduce our passenger capacity as travel restrictions are making it increasingly difficult for our customers to travel and demand has dropped drastically.

“Cathay Pacific is a resilient company.

“While we shall have much more to deal with given the challenges ahead, we remain confident in the long-term future of the company, the Hong Kong hub and our ability to thrive in Asia Pacific.”

Cathay Pacific will operate three flights per week to 12 destinations: London (Heathrow), Los Angeles, Vancouver, Tokyo (Narita), Taipei, New Delhi, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Sydney.

Cathay Dragon will operate three flights per week to three destinations: Beijing, Shanghai (Pudong), and Kuala Lumpur.

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Millions of airline seats lost to US coronavirus ban

A report by ForwardKeys has revealed that the United States’ transatlantic travel ban has now put a total of 3.3 million plane seats in jeopardy.

Announced last week, the order originally barred most non-United States nationals from entering the country from the Schengen area in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

This move put two million seats in danger.

The ban was extended to include the United Kingdom and Ireland last night, putting 1.3 million airline seats at risk of elimination from the market.

The airlines which look set to suffer the worst are both US carriers, Delta and United, which each stand to lose around 400,000 seats.

British Airways is next, followed, in order, by American Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Aer Lingus, KLM and Norwegian.

In terms of countries, the UK is set to be worst hit, potentially losing over a million seats.

It is followed in order by Germany, standing to lose around 500,000, France, around 400,000, the Netherlands around 300,000, Spain, around 200,000 and then Italy and Switzerland, each with around 100,000.

Olivier Ponti, vice president, insights, ForwardKeys, said: “Whilst a few flights are still operating, bringing permanent US residents and their immediate family back home, this is an unprecedented collapse in air travel.

“In an incredibly short space of time, this ban has decimated the world’s busiest and most profitable segment of the aviation industry, transatlantic travel.”

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airBaltic to ground all flights until mid-April

The government of Latvia will tighten security measures and suspend international air traffic from March 17th.

The move comes as the country seeks to limit the spread of coronavirus.

As a result, all airBaltic connections will be temporarily suspended from tomorrow until April 14th.

This includes operations of airBaltic from Estonia and Lithuania.

Martin Gauss, chief executive, airBaltic, said: “The safety and health of our passengers, our employees and the society is above all!

“airBaltic is working intensively to assist all passengers affected.

“Due to the amount of rebookings needed, we ask for understanding from our customers that we are doing our utmost to deal with this extraordinary situation.”

All affected passengers will be contacted by e-mail.

“Following the already announced staff reductions, airBaltic will in the upcoming days be in continued discussions with our staff and unions on details, how the new situation will affect the employment and future of our employees,” Gauss added.

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ForwardKeys signs transformative digital partnerships

ForwardKeys has concluded agreements with the International Air Transport Association and Airlines Reporting Corporation to include their global ticketing data in its portfolio of products and services.

Through this agreement, ForwardKeys will now provide global air travel data that includes the world’s most comprehensive air transaction dataset from ARC and IATA.

The new relationship will help ForwardKeys expand its current offerings to customers in the tourism industry.

IATA is the global trade association representing 290 airlines comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic.

It also operates the Billing and Settlement Plan, which facilitates and simplifies the selling, reporting and remitting procedures of IATA-accredited travel agencies in 181 countries and territories, excluding the United States.

ARC is an industry leader in air travel distribution and intelligence.

It provides channel-agnostic tools and insights to enable the diverse omnichannel retailing strategies of its customers.

In 2019, ARC settled $97.4 billion in transactions between airlines and travel agencies, representing more than 302 million passenger trips.

Its flexible settlement and retailing solutions, innovative technology and comprehensive air transaction data helps the global air travel community connect, grow and thrive.

ForwardKeys will now receive a regular feed of global ticketing transaction data settled by IATA and ARC for travel agency bookings – including online travel agencies – as well as direct airline transactions.

Olivier Jager, chief executive, ForwardKeys said: “This moment is like the completion of a jigsaw puzzle; we can now see the whole picture in complete detail rather than just part of it.

“Of course, I am excited for us because it strengthens our USP, but I am also excited for our customers because they will receive even more reliable market intelligence which will help them make better decisions.”

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