Government restrictions on air travel to contain COVID-19 globally are having an unprecedented impact on the aviation and travel industry. Faced with a huge downturn in demand, airlines reacted quickly and adjusted schedules by canceling flights to, from and within China, the epicenter of the outbreak, and then drastically reducing flights in all other affected markets. This was especially notable in Europe and on international routes to and from the US, following the introduction of US government travel ban on air travel between the US and Europe on March 13 for a 30-day period (March 14 to April 12, 2020).
The potential impact of flight restrictions between the US and Europe.
There were 24,500 unique transatlantic flights scheduled between the US and Europe over the duration of the travel ban. That’s a passenger capacity of 5.5 million*. Losing this capacity alone—for travel during this period between the US and Schengen countries and UK only—could equate to a loss of US$2 billion in revenue**.
European airports that are most heavily affected by the drastic suspension of flights include London Heathrow, with over 820,000 scheduled seats; Paris Charles de Gaulle, with over 370,000; Frankfurt, with over 340,000; Amsterdam, with over 290,000; and Dublin, with over 160,000 seats.
Airlines bearing the heaviest burden as a result of the ban include: Delta Air Lines with over 830,000 seats scheduled for the duration of the ban, United Airlines with over 770,000 seats, British Airways with over 750,000 seats, American Airlines with over 690,000 seats and Lufthansa with over 600,000 seats scheduled.
Italy on lockdown.
The US to Europe travel ban is in addition to the restriction already in-place for Italy. Since February 28, 2020, major airlines adjusted schedules and canceled scores of flights to and from Italy as the number of pandemic cases rose exponentially and passenger demand plunged. The rapid escalation of the threat posed by COVID-19 prompted authorities to close air travel to Italy completely.
Cirium’s analysis shows around 21,000 flights have been canceled in total. This includes flights to, from and within the country from February 28 to March 16; that’s 4,800 domestic and 17,000 international flights. This equates to 44% of the scheduled flights being canceled for this period.
Compared to flights being canceled to, from and within Italy from January 1 to February 27, cancelations were only at 6% of scheduled flights and this included a strike in the region, which affected operations on February 25 2020.
Looking at March 16, 2020, as a snapshot, over 2,100 flights were canceled out of an original schedule of 2,200 flights, which equates to 95% of all flights canceled on this day.
Flight impact to, from and within China.
China was the first area of focus before the COVID-19 spread rapidly to other parts of the world. We created an analysis tool—the Coronavirus Aviation Impact System—which traces the impact on air travel from January 1, 2020 to the present.
Our unique analysis provides a complete picture of flights that were not flown. Presenting the adjusted flight schedule and then identifying services that were further removed once the adjusted flight schedule was published. Cirium’s analysis of flight cancelations shows rates for both data sets.
According to the latest data from Cirium’s Coronavirus Aviation Impact System from January 1 to March 16, 2020, more than 570,000 flights have been canceled to, from and within China, which equates to a cancelation rate of 47% compared to the original schedule that was filed.
Domestic flights within China started trending upwards around February 19 and have since plateaued. However, the year-on-year schedule growth is still down by over a third (33%), as of March 16.
International flights to and from China remain restricted with only 350 flights out of an original schedule of nearly 3,000 services operating on March 16, with year-on-year schedule growth down by 81%.
For updates on COVID-19 please visit our Thought Cloud for updated stories and you can access our Coronavirus Aviation Impact System for the latest on flights to, from and within China.
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*Passenger figures based on an 82% load factor, aligned to current US DOT T100 March 2019.
**Per seat yield based on $0.09 per RPM.