By Kimmo Ruotsalainen (Helsinki, Finland)
As China is recovering from COVID-19, the epidemic has now spread exponentially in Middle-East. Europe and North-America since it first appeared late last year in the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province, becoming a full-blown pandemic
On March 15, the number of people infected (confirmed) with the new novel coronavirus has reached over 156,000 globally, including over 5,800 deaths in 123 countries (John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center).
On a positive side, the spread of COVID-10 in China has slowed dramaticaly and more than 65,000 people in the country have recovered from the disease (Source: China National Health Commission).
On March 15, as China starts to emerge from the crisis, scheduled domestic airline capacity looks set to rise by almost 25% next week. Beginning the week of March 16, there will be about 10.8 million available seats in the country’s network, according to data published by OAG Schedules Analyser shows, compared to 8.7 million this week, which commenced March 09. (Source: Routesonline)
European Airports Hit by Seat Capacity Reductions by Airlines Due to COVID-19
Europe is now the “epicentre” of the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization says. Italy has reached a total of 17,600 confirmed cases, Spain over 4,200, France over 3,600, Germany over 3,000 and UK over 800 confirmed cases by March 14.
On March 09, (prior to announced travel ban starting March 13 between Europe (Schengen) – US, airports in all regions have suffered from capacity cuts. Global scheduled capacity change year over year by OAG, shows that the capacity of all regions together has come down by -10.1%. The top seat volume markets that are hurting the most are Hong Kong (down -77,5%), South-Korea (-52,1%), China (-42,9%), Italy (-21,6%), UK (-15,5%), Germany (-15,4), and Japan (-15,0) based on data from January 20 to March 09. (Source: OAG)
In a summary (between January 01 – March 09):
- Globally, the number of scheduled flights is now down by 10% compared to the 2nd week of March in 2019.
- The impact on Chinese aviation appears to have bottomed out but still some way from recovery.
- Flights from Hong Kong are nearly 80% down on where they were this time last year.
- The past week has seen a steep decrease in scheduled flights from South Korea, which are now running at less than half the number of a year ago.
- Japanhas also seen a sharp decline in departing flights and is now around 15% below where they were this time last year.
- Although the USA is now seeing capacity withdrawn, it is less than 2% below where it was a year ago.
- In Europe, the past week has seen the volume of flights drop compared to a year ago in key markets such as Italy, Germany and the UK (although in the UK the failure of Flybewill be contributing to the effect). (Source: OAG)
COVID Spotlight - Finland
The first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Finland was confirmed on January 30, 2020. The number of confirmed cases in Finland stayed at one until they started to increase at the beginning of March. By March 15, the number of confirmed cases in the country had reached a total of 243.
Finnair – national airline of Finland – has cancelled all its mainland China operations earlier in February this year due to COVID outbreak in China. Following now the US Government’s new travel restrictions, Finnair is canceling all flights to the US between March 19 and April 12. Its destinations in US include New York, Los Angeles and Miami. Airline also expects that due to the decreased transfer passenger loads caused by recent these cancelations, there will be further impacts on airline’s narrow-body traffic in Europe. Finnair is decreasing the seat capacity of its European traffic in April by over 20 percent, by cancelling altogether approximately 2,400 flights and by switching to smaller aircraft on certain routes. So far, Finnair has cancelled 3,800 flights this year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Source: Finnair)
Finavia, who operates also Helsinki Airport, reports that capital airport’s domestic traffic declined by 2,3% and international traffic by 2,0% in February. The recent development in terms of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Finland and Europe in March coupled with declining transfer traffic will though have more negative impact to Helsinki Airport’s seat capacity for coming months. (Source: Finavia Statistics)
President Trump Declares State of Emergency for US, Suspends Travel from Most of Europe (Schengen) Effective March 13 for Next 4 Weeks
The US’s unilateral decision will affect aviation’s most important international market, travel between Europe and North-America as 13,500 flights will be cancelled translating into loss of four million passengers in the next four weeks, according to data from the aviation analysts OAG. Additionally, International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) warns Europe (Schengen) – US market restrictions ”will create enormous cash flow pressures for airlines.”
As European and US airlines will be impacted by the travel ban, it is foreseen that further seat capacity cuts will be made by major carriers during this 30-day ban until mid-April. Thus, ACI-Europe, the European branch of Airports Council International, had already prior to new travel ban declared that Covid-19 spread as ”a crisis of unprecented proportions”. ACI Europe projected an overall drop of 187 million passengers for Europe’s airports this year, resulting in a decrease of 7,5% in a year which had been previously been projected to see 2,3% passenger growth. Furthermore, they projected a financial impact as a loss of €1,320 million (1.486 billion USD) in revenues for Q1 compared to a normal financial quarter, based on lower aeronautical charges, lower commercial revenues, and lost revenues from ground handling and other services.