The corona crisis threatens the existence of many airlines. New data shows how severe the slump in bookings to Europe is.
The figures are gigantic: Lufthansa alone is cancelling around 7100 flights in March. Other airlines are cutting back their services just as drastically. Demand has collapsed massively worldwide in recent weeks. Even morning or evening flights between major cities, which used to be fully booked, are now half empty.
This is due to the coronavirus epidemic. For one thing, many people do not want to get on a plane for fear of being infected. On the other hand, many fairs, events and meetings are cancelled. As a result, business travelers are also not traveling anymore. At the same time, transfer passengers from the rest of the world are missing.
The arrival of the epidemic in Italy changed things
The extent to which bookings have slumped as a result of the corona crisis is shown by figures published by Forward Keys, a market research company specialising in the travel industry. According to these figures, international flight bookings to Europe – that means excluding not including intra-European traffic – were still in the black until well into January. However, they began to decline from 20 January onwards, when the first flights to China were stopped.
From then until February 22, bookings plummeted by 23.7 percent. The trend accelerated when Northern Italy became a trouble spot with lots of infections. From February 23 to 29, demand for forward keys dropped by 79.0 per cent. Fewer people flew to Europe from all parts of the world.
Demand from North America also declined dramatically
The dramatic decline in bookings from Southeast Asia of 133 percent (a figure over 100 is possible because cancellations are added to the new bookings) is still understandable in view of the outbreak of the epidemic in China. However, South America is also showing large declines of more than 70 percent, while North America and the Middle East have fallen by more than 60 percent. The decline in international bookings has in turn an effect on occupancy rates in Europe due to a lack of transfer passengers.
One thing is therefore clear: the corona crisis will continue to occupy the industry for some time to come. And those who now have no capital cushion to get through a few very bad months and pay for cancellations will have problems.