Air France-KLM CEO explains how flying might resume through summer

Apr 16, 2020

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The coronavirus crisis has completely upended the travel industry — and more specifically, aviation. Airlines around the world have been forced to ground their fleets, with some even completely suspending operations. As such, airports around the world have largely turned into car parks with dozens of planes grounded.

While no one knows for certain when flying will return to normal — or even what that new normal might look like — Air France-KLM Group CEO Ben Smith has hinted when we might see aircraft start returning to the skies.

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As reported by French newspaper La Tribune, Smith painted a bleak picture at what we might expect to see in the coming months and years. In a videoconference with pilots, Smith said that he expects operations to gradually resume. By June, Smith expects 20% of capacity (seat kilometres offered) to be restored, followed by 40% of capacity restored in July, 60% in August and 75% by the fourth quarter.

However, he said that it will take two years for air traffic level to reach the same point as 2019.

Related: 7 ways coronavirus could forever change the way we travel

Currently, the airline is operating a “skeleton operation”, which it expects to continue until at least May. In Europe, that means only to Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Munich, Stockholm and Zurich. In the U.S., it’s only flying to New York and Los Angeles.

According to La Tribune, Air France-KLM is losing 25 million euro a day, and Air France only has enough cash to last it until June. The carrier said in a press release that it needs additional funding and has called on the government and financial institutions for assistance.

Few airlines have said when exactly they will return to service, as the end date continues to move further into the future. A number of carriers have extended their suspensions as a result. While airlines may have plans to resume service, it will largely depend on how willing passengers are to purchase tickets immediately after restrictions have lifted and what those restrictions still look like.

EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the low-cost airline expects demand to continue to drop when operations do resume, and as such, the carrier is planning to keep middle seats open to encourage social distancing.

Featured photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images.

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