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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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.


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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Inside £90 million VIP private jet big enough to sleep 17 people in luxury

Ever wanted a cool private jet to share with your 16 closets family and friends?

You could rent this jet fit with luxurious double beds, huge en-suits and a fuel tank which can fly you 6,000 miles without stopping.

That’s if you’ve got a few millions lying around, precisely £90 million that is, then you can rent this incredible jet.

But just think, if you split the cost with 16 other mates, it’s only really £5.3 million each give or take.

The ACJ32Oneo aircraft has been designed by Yves Pickardt of Alberto Pinto Interior Design for Acropolis Aviation, a UK charter operator.

Its modified Airbus is larger than other private jets created by Bombardier, with a master bedroom and big en-suite bathroom.

These high-quality interiors have been compared to a luxury flat, packed with leather sofas and mahogany beds.

It is believed the snazzy en-suite shower is the largest which has ever featured on an Airbus aircraft.

As for bedrooms, there’s enough for 17 people to sleep comfortably or 19 people to sit, and the fuel tank carries enough for 6,000 miles, essentially the distance from London to Seattle.

And the good news about it all is that the plane is also better for the environment with engines and sharklet wingtips to allow for efficient fuel consumption.

Speaking about the aircraft, Jonathan Bousfield, Acropolis chief executive, said: “It's something something very special.

“It will set new standards of comfort and well-being with the VIP charter market, fully utilising the cabin space.”

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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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Oberammergau Passion Play delayed until 2022

In a virtually unprecedented move, the Oberammergau Passion Play will be postponed for two years as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world.

Organisers sought to blame the delay on the administrative district office of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which earlier prohibited the performance.

The first performance had been scheduled for May 16th, but will now take place in 2022.

The world-famous Passion Play goes back to a vow made in 1633.

At that time, the people of Oberammergau vowed to perform the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ every ten years if no one else died of the plague.

The people of Oberammergau still want to fulfil this vow – despite nearly 50 deaths in Germany from coronavirus.

Therefore, plans to perform the Passion Play in 2022 are now being put in place.

The premiere is scheduled for May 21st that year, with further performance dates to be announced in due course.

In the past there have been postponements or even cancellations of the Passion Play – though not many.

In 1770 the play could not take place due to a general ban, while in 1940 the Second World War prevented a performance.

For the 1920 Passion Play, the municipal council decided not to press ahead with preparations in view of the large number of World War I casualties.

However, it did then take in 1922.

Tickets for 2020 performances can be transferred to 2022, or full refunds will be offered.


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Chile latest country to enter complete lockdown

President Sebastián Piñera announced Chile has entered stage four of its Covid-19 contingency plan.

As a result, as of today, all of Chile’s land, sea and air borders will close, and entry of foreigners will be denied until further notice.

The president has also issued a denial of cruise ships to Chilean ports through September 30th in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus to the country.

Tourism authorities are said to “support the decrees” for both domestic and international travel and are seeking to reinforce responsible travel with the adoption of preventative measures.

Chilean nationals and permanent residents arriving from high-risk countries will be able to enter the country by submitting to an obligatory quarantine of 14 days set forth by customs and health authorities.

The government decree that stipulates that travellers from Iran, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Germany, France, Spain and Italy must be isolated for 14 days still applies and that travellers who have not entered the territory from these countries are exempt from this measure.

Health authorities indicate that isolation can be carried out in private homes or tourist accommodations if absolutely necessary and will need to be reported accordingly.

To prevent the spread of this virus, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the government also determined all unnecessary public events to be cancelled; necessary private events should be held to groups under 50 attendees.

All the updated information regarding the action plan established by the government and Chile Tourism to face this pandemic can be found here.


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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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