Video: ‘Worst yet to come’ — European airlines on virus impact

The spreading coronavirus means the worst is yet to come for the travel trade, according to European airlines at an industry summit in Brussels.

Editor’s note:
The following is a transcript of the accompanying video. ©2020 Thomson Reuters

A fresh coronavirus warning [on] Tuesday [March 3] from Europe’s leading airlines. When it comes to industry pain, they say the worst is yet to come.

Many of the sector’s big names were gathered in Brussels for a summit. The get-together came as carriers around the world cancel flights in response to the crisis.

Lufthansa has already grounded a quarter of its short-haul fleet. On Tuesday, Gulf airline Emirates asked staff to take up to a month of unpaid leave. Meanwhile Scandinavian carrier SAS said it too was cutting capacity and pulling its financial guidance.

Now Air France-KLM is among those to call for help. It wants Europe to suspend rules that would see airlines lose landing slots at key airports if they don’t keep using them. Chief executive Ben Smith spoke at the summit. He says the crisis could spell doom for some struggling carriers.

Smith said: “In terms of consolidation, personally, I would say yes. There are quite a few weak carriers throughout the world, in particular Asia. So, we are seeing that. In Europe, we see the same. France, over the last few months, you’ve seen two failures. So most definitely, I believe this will accelerate consolidation.”

But there were also some notes of hope [on] Tuesday [3 March].

The bosses of Ryanair and British Airways’ owner IAG both said the crisis could pass fairly soon. Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary said the current “deflated” environment would probably last two or three weeks. Then, he says, people will really want to start thinking about their summer travels.