The European airlines are in a deep crisis caused by the global pandemic and moody perspectives. The fast-changing travel restrictions adopted by many countries to stem the spread of the disease have clobbered airlines, bringing air traffic to a near halt in the spring. To avoid bankruptcy, the airlines cutting fares to woo back passengers.
The European airlines note that while traffic picked up during the summer, it is now falling off again. As The Local Italy reports, the Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic in Europe, traffic has been slowing over the past couple of weeks, and is now 54 percent below its comparable level last year.
A European airline trade association echoes Eurocontrol, saying that COVID-19 has put August traffic even lower, at just 30 percent of 2019 levels.
Eurocontrol insists pessimistically that the situation is very far from improving. It is too early to say about a recovery for the air transport sector in Europe. While in the spring it had expected traffic to be 30 percent below 2019 levels in October, but it now sees a 57-percent drop.
In other words, to cut fare prices is the only option for the airlines. In fact, the pandemic has left airlines starved for cash. «You have to entice travellers to return to flying and price is a factor,» said Reginald Otten, deputy managing director for France at budget airline easyJet.
Following months of lockdown and pessimistic prognoses, easyJet had managed to reopen some routes during the summer and the planes it flew were nearly full. «But we are nevertheless around 30 percent of capacity, which is a very, very low figure, and the summer is the most important, most popular (time) for people to travel,» Otten said.
Lower prices stimulate airlines
Amid the unbearable coronacrisis, there are no exclusions in the air transport sector, every airline is suffering. Ryanair, which has used a low-cost model to become one of Europe’s biggest airlines, this week launched a brief buy-one-get-one-free promotion.
«At some stage you can’t sit there and look out of the window and hope that things will be alright and wait for the politicians to do something,» Eddie Wilson said.
Beyond cutting prices, airlines can and are focusing on their most profitable routes. But the reimposition of travel restrictions and tighter quarantine and testing measures could quickly undo their planning and efforts.
However, the experts warn that the effect of low prices has its limit. And soon it will thus be limited, especially as consumers remain worried about their plans being disrupted and rapid reimbursement of their tickets in case of cancellation.