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Nearly 80 airlines cut capacity by 100 percent over coronavirus

Nearly 80 airlines cut capacity by 100 percent over coronavirus
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A majority of airlines worldwide have cut capacity by 100 percent as a result of the coronavirus shutting down travel and grounding most flights.

Of the 153 carriers, 72 have announced capacity cuts of 100 percent. Additionally, almost 85 percent of airlines globally have made capacity cuts of 60 percent or more, according to data derived from carrier announcements.

Ryanair, the largest carrier in Europe by scheduled and chartered passengers, has cut 100 percent of its capacity, while the second-largest, Lufthansa, has cut 95 percent through April 19, according to data compiled by aviation blogger Jason Rabinowitz and aviation journalists Jon Ostrower, Danny Lee and Seth Miller.

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North American airlines that have cut capacity by 100 percent include Air Transat, Compass Airlines, Pacific Coastal Airlines, Sunwing and Trans State Airlines.

Major U.S. carriers have made slightly fewer cuts, with Delta Air Lines cutting 70 percent and grounding 600 planes, a 100 percent increase from mid-March. United Airlines, meanwhile, has cut 65 percent of its capacity, including 42 percent domestically and 95 percent internationally.

American Airlines has cut 50 percent of its capacity, including 40 percent domestically and 75 percent internationally. JetBlue has made 55 percent cuts and has said “substantial” cuts are on the table for June and July as well.

The only carriers among the top 10 North American airlines that have made cut capacity less than 50 percent are Southwest at 25 percent; Alaska Airlines, at 15 percent; Spirit, with 20 percent cuts set to increase to 25 percent in May; and Aeromexico, with 45 percent cuts beginning March 17 and ending April 30.

“The airline capacity cuts are impacting virtually all airlines in every corner of the world. The implications of these cuts will result in global connectivity being greatly reduced for an extended period of time, with some airlines announcing that their cuts are indefinite until such a time that conditions improve,” Rabinowitz wrote in an email to The Hill on Tuesday.

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“That being said, many airlines that were financially unstable before the COVID19 outbreak likely will not survive these capacity cuts in the near term,” he added. “These airline capacity cuts are unprecedented and there is no roadmap for getting back to 100%, or guarantee that it will ever happen.”

“Carriers are burning through cash as cancellations far outpace new bookings for U.S. carriers, planes are only 20-30% full and new bookings are indicating 70-80 percent declines in traffic even as airlines make dramatic cuts in capacity — and this is getting worse each day,” Katherine Estep, communications director for trade association Airlines for America, told The Hill in an email.

“The announced cuts are much larger – likely over 50% beginning in a few weeks, and we expect that to extend at least through mid-summer,” she added. “It is important to clarify and understand that 1) it takes time to pull down capacity and 2) not all of the announced cuts are reflected in published schedule databases yet. As an example, United has announced they will be pulling down 95% of their international schedule.”

Individual checkpoint data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows a major decline in air travel from 2019. For example, Monday saw total traveler figures at 331,431, compared with 2.43 million on the corresponding weekday last year.

As the pandemic spreads, the gap has widened nearly every day; on March 16, the TSA recorded 1.26 million travelers compared with 2.39 million last year. As recently as March 8, there was a difference of fewer than 300,000 between 2019 and 2020.