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Delta Donates 200,000 Pounds of Food to Hospitals and Food Banks

After Delta Air Lines reduced its services due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the lack of customers has left the airline with an excess of food. To support the efforts of front-line responders and help those in need, Delta has donated 200,000 pounds of its food to hospitals, community food banks and other charity groups.

In a press release on Tuesday, the airline confirmed that the food is distributed through its long-time partner, the Chicago-based nonprofit Feeding America organization.

“So far in 2020, Delta has donated over 200,000 pounds of perishable food items from warehouses to Feeding America partner agencies across the U.S. and other charities, including Georgia Food & Resource Center and Missouri’s Carthage Crisis Center,” said Delta.

According to USA Today, Delta is also working to provide food from its Sky Club lounges to first responders and charities in cities heavily impacted by the coronavirus, such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York.

In the airline’s home base of Atlanta, Delta has teamed up with local chef Linton Hopkins to supply meals for first responders at Emory University Hospital and locals employed in the hospitality industry who have been furloughed.

Additionally, Delta is sending boxed meals to the employees at the airline’s reservations and customer care centers, who continue to help customers adjust their travel plans due to the pandemic.

In addition to its latest services, Delta announced last month that the airline would be flying healthcare workers to coronavirus focal points for free.

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Alaska Airlines Responds to RavnAir's Suspension of Service

WHY IT RATES: Since RavnAir Group, Alaska’s largest regional airline, shut down nearly all of its operations on April 2, 2020, filing for bankruptcy and laying off most of its remaining laborforce, Alaska Airlines is taking steps to help the state stay connected and extend employment to aviation workers.—Laurie Baratti, TravelPulse Associate Writer

With the announcement on Sunday of RavnAir Alaska stopping all operations, Alaska Airlines expressed deep concern for the Ravn employees and communities in the state impacted by the news.

“Having served Alaska for 88 years, Alaska Airlines has a special appreciation for the unique reliance most Alaskan communities have on air service,” said Brad Tilden, Alaska Airlines chief executive officer. “During this difficult moment, our hope is that air carriers across Alaska will make every effort to ensure continuity of service to all the state’s remote communities. We are committed to working with those airlines, the Governor’s Aviation Advisory Board, Alaska Air Carriers Association, and the affected communities to connect Alaskans now and into the future.”

Given the impact to residents of the state caused by the Ravn service suspension, Alaska Airlines, which currently serves 19 communities in the state of Alaska, is announcing the following actions:

—Alaska will maintain service to all points it currently serves in the state.

—Alaska will continue service to Kodiak with its own aircraft.

—Alaska will move up its normal summer seasonal service to King Salmon and Dillingham, starting earlier than scheduled.

—In support of the communities in the Aleutian Islands, as well as the seafood industry, Alaska is working with partners and regulatory agencies to initiate service to Cold Bay with the intention of providing access to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Service to Cold Bay will be with Alaska’s own aircraft.

—Alaska is working with the seafood industry and other key sectors of the state of Alaska economy on charter service to ensure critical workforce movements during this period of reduced air service.

—Alaska will review other markets impacted by the Ravn suspension of service to consider how best to support affected communities.

—Alaska Air Cargo, a unit of Alaska Airlines, is optimizing use of its 3 dedicated freighter aircraft in the state of Alaska to ensure medical supplies, groceries and other essential shipments are delivered during this period of reduced air service.

—While currently under a hiring freeze driven by the COVID-19 crisis, Alaska Airlines’ human resources group will nonetheless host a job fair for Ravn employees impacted by that company’s cessation of service. We will work to provide these experienced airline workers with support in seeking new employment, including connecting with other companies that may be hiring.

“We believe these are important steps that Alaska Airlines can take to support the infrastructure of the state of Alaska and ensure the people and communities of the state remain connected during this incredibly challenging time,” said Tilden.

For more information, visit alaskaair.com.

SOURCE: Alaska Airlines press release.

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Delta Extends Medallion Status and SkyMiles Benefits Amid COVID-19

Delta Air Lines is doing its best to reassure its loyal customers during this time of unprecedented upheaval in the air travel industry. As the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively halted travel and thrown people’s future travel plans into question, Delta is making sure that members are able to preserve their statuses and benefits until after the crisis has passed.

“As coronavirus continues to dramatically impact travel across the globe, you don’t have to worry about your benefits – they’ll be extended so you can enjoy them when you are ready to travel again,” said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Customer Engagement and Loyalty, and CEO of Delta Vacations. “We are continuously monitoring how coronavirus impacts travel and will make additional adjustments to support our customers’ needs as the pandemic evolves.”

The following adjustments will be applied by Delta automatically over the coming weeks, with no action needed from customers:

Medallion Members:

—All 2020 Medallion Statuses for will be automatically extended through the 2021 Medallion Year.

—All Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 are being rolled over to 2021 to qualify for 2022 Medallion Status.

Delta Sky Club Individual and Executive memberships with currently set to expire March 1, 2020, or later are entitled to six additional months of Delta Sky Club access beyond their expiration date.

Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Members:

For members with any of the following in their SkyMiles “My Wallet”, which are still valid or have expired since March 1, 2020, Delta is extending their expiration dates:

—Delta SkyMiles Gold Card Members with a $100 Delta flight credit will have their current expiration date extended by more six months.

—Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card Members with Companion Certificates that have an expiration date between March 1 and June 30, 2020, will now be able to use them when they book and fly by December 31, 2020. Those that expire between July 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021, will have six extra months added onto their current expiration date.

—Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card Members with Companion Certificates having an expiration date between March 1 and June 30, 2020, can use them when they book and fly by Dec. 31, 2020; and those that are currently to expire between July 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021, will be given an additional six months beyond their current expiration date.

—Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card Members will also be afforded a six-month extension to use their Delta Sky Club One-Time Guest Passes beyond their current expiration dates.

SkyMiles Members:

For members with any of the following in their SkyMiles profile “My Wallet”, which are valid now or expired since March 1, 2020, Delta is will be extending their expiration dates:

—Upgrade Certificates or $200 Travel Vouchers set to expire between March 1 and June 30, 2020, will now be available for use when booking and flying by December 31, 2020. Upgrade Certificates or $200 Travel Vouchers that expire after June 30, 2020, will receive an additional six months’ validity beyond their current expiration date.

—SkyMiles Select members’ Priority Boarding benefit and any unused drink vouchers will also receive a six-month extension of expiration.

For more information, visit delta.com.

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Trump considers selective ban on domestic flying coronavirus

The White House is contemplating a ban on commercial domestic
flying to Covid-19 hotspots.

Answering questions at his Wednesday press briefing,
President Donald Trump said particular consideration is being given to banning
flights that go from one city with a major outbreak to another.

“I am looking where flights are going into hotspots. Some of
those flights I didn’t like from the beginning,” Trump said. “But closing up
every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very rough
decision.”

Trump wasn’t specific about the markets he is considering,
but any list of major hotspots would almost surely include the New York/New
Jersey area. Detroit, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Seattle are
other markets with major Covid-19 outbreaks. 

Trump said a reason for his hesitance to shut the industry
down entirely is that restarting operations would be a challenge for carriers.
But he said the White House is weighing the balance between keeping the
industry afloat and risking further virus spread.

“That is a calculation that we’re looking at right now. We’re
looking at it very strongly,” he said.

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Covid-19 will test aviation industry's powers of recovery

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By Shane McGinley

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Industry experts in the aviation sector are predicting billions of dollars in losses, airlines going bust and airports closing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, but there are some silver linings, such as increased cargo demand and maybe even a few cheap jets coming on to the market

While many airlines have grounded their aircraft in a bid to curtail the spread of Covid-19, they are seeing a surge in demand for cargo services.

“The world doesn’t function without an airline industry.” That was the hair-raising assessment of Tim Coombs, a London-based aviation consultant with more than 30 years’ experience, when I ask him over the phone how things are looking.

I then point out to him that, just minutes earlier, Emirates Airline, one of the world’s largest airlines, had announced it was grounding all its passenger flights for two weeks. Like many around the region, we were both shocked and it took a few seconds to take in the magnitude of the news.

Even during the Gulf Wars, the Dubai-based carrier had manged to keep flying. So, will this Covid-19 pandemic finally achieve what many of the Greta Thunbergs around the world have been claiming, and that the world can indeed function quite fine without planes flying overhead?


Dubai’s Emirates airline, along with all carriers in the UAE, was forced to ground its fleet as part of Covid-19 measures

IATA – the International Air Transport Association – certainly seems pessimistic. It predicts that global airlines need $200bn of state support to survive and warns that if nothing is done, only about 30 of the nearly 700 airlines around the world will still be in existence in a few months.

Coombs, who is a lecturer at City, University of London and also teaches in Dubai, believes the Covid-19 outbreak is indeed “the biggest challenge to have impacted the industry by far”. Despite this, he is conflicted when it comes to the issue of government bailouts for the sector.

“There are some companies, which, because they are nationally owned, are going to benefit from bailouts from governments, [then] there are privately-owned companies which are, by and large, probably going to fail.”

While he believes Emirates is one of these global crown jewels and it is “unthinkable” that Dubai would be able to function without the carrier, he believes not all airlines are so deserving, such as low-cost carrier Norwegian Air, which was given $537m aid by the Oslo government.

“Airlines, by their very nature, have a lot of flexible costs in what they’re doing, if they don’t fly”

“I mean they are an airline in financial trouble anyway. And it’s not clear to me that they had a business case which was viable… The fact that Alitalia, which again is an airline which should have failed quite a long time ago, has now potentially been nationalised by the Italian government, I do not approve of those, because in some ways, it’s sort of throwing good money after bad.”

Race to the bottom

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based Strategic Aero Research, believes that IATA’s numbers are even too optimistic. “I don’t think this is something that’s going to run into billions, it’s going to run into trillions. I really don’t see that we’ve even reached the bottom of this yet,” he says.

With the US carriers asking President Donald Trump for $50bn in government aid to help them survive, the Gulf carriers must be laughing, as it wasn’t long ago the three biggest American airlines were accusing their rivals in the UAE and Qatar of benefiting from government funding of around $40bn.

“I guess the only saving grace is that all airlines across the world now that are reaching out for government assistance cannot accuse others of being state funded, because, regardless of what kind of caveats or restrictions or imposition, the rules are put in place for financial handout, everybody will be getting some form of state aid,” he points out.


Increased demand for emergency supplies has benefited cargo operators

The strange thing to note is that while many would have assumed that no one at all is planning to fly, this is not the case. Matthew Sliedrecht, marketing director at online travel portal Cleartrip, told us on March 22 that, at the time, before UAE airlines grounded their passenger planes, international bookings to and from the Middle East were running at about 40 percent what they were at the same time last year.

A record-breaking Eid?

Bizarrely, Sliedrecht reports that prices have also remained steady for May this year as people are still booking, anticipating that they will be able to begin flying again when the travel bans are lifted by regional governments.

“People are still booking. When you look at prices from the 22nd of May, they have not come down. That marks the Eid holiday. So, our prediction is that, as [governments] start easing up the period between 2 and 4 weeks that we’ve been given indications of, from a forecast perspective, we may see this Eid as one of the largest travel seasons we’ve seen in history.

“Obviously, we can’t predict the future, but it will be the first time people will have been able to leave the country. Come the end of April, if the restrictions and measures are down by almost every country… people will want to be seeing their families again,” he says.

However, Mohammed Al Husary, executive president and owner of UAS International Trip Support, a Dubai-based company which offers global support for heads of state, VVIPs and business jet operators when they fly, is not so optimistic about the outlook.

“To be honest with you, up until the beginning of March, the situation has been really normal, seemed like last year, because the shut down and ban on travel had not taken wide effect,” he recalls.

“Come the end of April, if the restrictions and measures are down… people will want to be seeing their families again”

“But, as of the 15th of March we are noticing a bit of a decline in the commercial and the VIP operations. The decline we’re talking about is not as huge as people might expect, because up until this moment, there are still some evacuation flights happening… So, I think the biggest impact is yet to materialise. I think this will materialise probably towards the beginning of April.”

Cargo lifeline

While airlines are crying out for bailouts, there is one silver lining: that cargo is seeing a surge in demand, mainly due to increased demand for essential goods.

“It’s gone up so far by 20 percent approximately. But it’s expected also to increase even further as the cargo needs to be moved now more frequently,” Al Husary says.

Riyadh-based Nicholas Cole, CEO of global airport operator DAA International, agrees, pointing out that Covid-19 had resulted in demand for medical supplies.

“It is important to keep airports open. We are in conversations with a number of airlines across our group who still wish to continue flying with the bottom of the plane full. I’ll give you one example, some of the Covid-19 tests coming out of China can be flown in hours.

“If they were to travel by road, or by boat, it would take so much longer. So, I think it forces the world to think about what aviation does for connectivity, not just for people, but also for, you know, goods that are time sensitive.


Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi Founding and Executive Chairman of industry body the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA)

“I’d suggest, currently, that, unfortunately, we’ll have a lot of time sensitive goods, such as [Covid-19] tests and potential vaccines. These kinds of things will be incredibly time sensitive. So I suggest that airlines and airports, although they may be closed to passengers, many airports, ourselves included, are starting to think about what else can we do to keep the facilities moving and play our part in the recovery of Covid-19.”

While the focus is on airlines, Cole says airports are also facing huge challenges. “It is a bit more difficult for airports than it is airlines,” he points out. “Airlines, by their very nature, have a lot of flexible costs in what they’re doing if they don’t fly… An airport is an immovable asset that you have to keep running, you have to keep maintaining. Yes, there are some variable costs in an airport, but they tend to be much lower than they would be in, let’s say, a ground handler or in an airline.”


Tim Coombs, Managing Director at Aviation Economics

For this reason, many experts are predicting that some airports, especially smaller ones, may not survive the current crisis.

“We’re going to have a smaller global market because we will have lost quite a lot of airlines,” Coombs says.

“Potentially we’re going to lose quite a few smaller regional airports, which relied on those independent carriers which might not survive. There will be a thinning out of those regional airports, going forward, which will have less demand.”

Jetsetting for less

Within the business jet sector, Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi, founding and executive chairman of industry body the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), says there is a real fear that some private jet operators may also go under.

“I think the biggest impact is yet to materialise. I think this will materialise probably towards the beginning of April”

“Honestly speaking, sadly yes, you will not be able to continue without income. It all depends where you are geographically. A lot of governments have created a supportive budget for the private sector and the government sector, this is going to help” he says.

However, for those high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) who have spare cash, the current crisis could see a glut of private jets coming on to the market and there may be bargains to be had in the second-hand market, which the Middle East was traditionally not a big region for. “Yes, I think that’s going to happen,” Alnaqbi predicts.

With less airlines, less passengers and less planes, it doesn’t spell good news for the manufacturers, notably major rivals Airbus and Boeing. “It is an absolute disaster for them both,” says Ahmad, with Boeing already suffering from the grounding of the 737 Max aircraft since last year, and Airbus having to admit it was set to retire production of the epic A380 superjumbo.

“I would not be surprised to see Airbus or Boeing at some point, perhaps before mid-year, absolutely ceasing production, where it could be for a quarter, maybe a little bit longer than that, maybe three or four months… The reality is the airlines are just not in a position to be investing if they can’t fly them,” he adds.

Temperature please?

But while the 9/11 attacks got us used to increased security checks, taking off our shoes at airports and not bringing liquids or laptops on planes, will Covid-19 bring a whole new reality, and fear, to flying?


Mohammed Al Husary, executive president, UAS International Trip Support

“I would not be surprised if we get to a situation where passengers have to have a certificate from the doctor to certify that they are fit to fly. We could have a situation where people are checked before they even cross into security. I would not be surprised if, in the background, these kinds of discussions are happening,” says Ahmad.

When people’s need to self-isolate ends and life begins to get back to relative normal, will the aviation industry be forever changed?

“I’m not entirely sure human behaviour is going to change in terms of our desire to continue to fly,” Coombs says emphatically.

“Before coronavirus, we had people wanting to do the right thing in terms of climate change, and the pressure that might have put on the aviation industry, but, on a global scale, it wasn’t showing much impact. The industry has always recovered.” Fingers crossed he’s right.


How will Covid-19 impact the Middle East aviation sector?

The aviation industry in the Gulf region is bracing for a $7bn financial hit and the loss of up to nearly 347,000 jobs due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said a total of 16,000 passenger flights have been cancelled in the Middle East since the end of January as the outbreak of coronavirus has left the regional aviation industry reeling.

Bahrain: The disruptions could result in 1.1 million loss in passenger volumes and $204m loss in revenue, with  about 5,100 jobs at risk.

Kuwait: The disruptions could result in 2.9 million loss in passenger volumes, $547m loss in base revenues and over 19,800 jobs at risk.

Oman: The disruptions could result in 2 million loss in passenger volumes and $328m loss in base revenues and put about 36,700 jobs at risk.

Saudi Arabia: The disruptions could result in 15.7 million loss in passenger volumes and $3.1bn loss in base revenues and put at risk over 140,300 jobs in the country.

UAE: The disruptions could result in 13.6 million loss in passenger volumes and $2.8bn loss in base revenues and put at risk over 163,000 jobs.

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Airlines Asked to Issue Refunds Following Bailout

Following Congress’ approval of a $25 billion bailout for struggling U.S. airlines, several senators have come forward urging 11 major airlines to issue full cash refunds to customers after canceling their flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least nine Democratic senators are urging more airlines to refund their customers, including Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Sheldon Whitehouse and Bob Casey. A majority of U.S. airlines are simply waiving cancelation fees rather than offering cash refunds.

“Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities, not temporary credits towards future travel,” the senators wrote.

American Airlines issued a response, claiming its “comprehensive travel waivers we’ve put in place are designed to meet the full range of our customers’ needs.” Other airlines such as Southwest Airlines Co, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have yet to respond.

According to MSN, hundreds of thousands of flights have been canceled by U.S. airlines within the past few weeks. Southwest claimed that 40 percent of flights will be cut from May 3 to June 5, with other carriers such and American, United, Delta and Alaska Airlines cutting over 60 percent of their flights.

While there is little demand for commercial flights in the U.S., the U.S. State Department is working with major airlines to help nearly 50,000 American citizens still abroad who may be in need of rescue flights in order to return home.

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Frontier slashes April capacity

Frontier is reducing April flight capacity by more than 90%, the largest cutback announced to date by a mainline U.S. carrier.

“It is the company’s belief that, if there is strong compliance with the U.S. government’s current guidance for Americans to stay at home for an additional 30 days, the airline will be in a position to gradually build flight capacity back up to as much as 35% in May and 100% in the latter half of the year,” the carrier said in a statement.

Frontier added that for the next several weeks, it will focus on implementation of innovative aircraft cleaning and sanitation methods as well as enhancements to operational systems.

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Airlines mull temporary service consolidation coronavirus

U.S. airlines are considering jointly consolidating services
during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a CNBC report. 

Under the $58 billion airline stimulus package that became
law on Friday, carriers that accept grants or federally guaranteed loans must
continue flying to each destination that they serve unless they receive Transportation
Department permission to do otherwise.

Consolidating operations to smaller markets could serve as a
workaround to that requirement. 

“Does it make sense for more than one of us to be flying to
a city when there are only a few seats filled on each plane,” CNBC quoted one
anonymous airline executive as saying. “It may make more sense to maintain
service to that city but to put all passengers on one plane.”

CNBC added that it spoke with executives of “multiple
airlines” about the concept, though those executives said the idea had not yet
been formally presented to the Transportation Department. 

The department didn’t offer a specific view on the concept
in a statement Monday. 

“This is an important issue and the department supports the
intent of maintaining a national network of air service to communities across
the country,” a DOT spokesperson said. 
We will have further guidance about how this will be accomplished in the
days to come.”

U.S. airlines have dramatically pared back schedules but are
nevertheless flying nearly empty planes. In a letter to employees Friday,
United CEO Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby said they expect April load
factor fall into the teens or even single digits, even with a capacity cut of
more than 60%. 

On March 29, the Transportation Security Administration
screened 180,000 passengers and crew members, compared with 2.5 million on the
same date last year. ARC reported an 88.5% year-over-year drop in the number of
tickets issued for the week ending March 29. 

According CNBC, if airlines were to jointly consolidate
service, they would continue to separately sell tickets for city pairs on which
they now compete. However, instead of three carriers flying New York
LaGuardia-St. Louis, for example, every passenger would be funneled onto a
single flight. Such an arrangement would require the completion of complicated
commercial agreements. 

The trade group Airlines for America declined to comment on
the topic Monday. United, Delta, Southwest and American either didn’t respond
to a request for comment or declined to comment. 

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Southwest Airlines Offers Voluntary Leave in Lieu of Stimulus Package

With the COVID-19 pandemic stunting travel, some airlines have been receiving private funding packages to keep afloat. However, Southwest Airlines has recently offered voluntary leave with partial pay to flight attendants, despite the U.S. Senate approving a $50 billion stimulus package for the industry this past Wednesday.

By accepting federal aid, airlines must agree to several conditions, which include restrictions on dividends and share buybacks, requirements to keep employment levels stable through September and limits on executive pay. Two national unions believe that Southwest may reject any stimulus package due to these conditions.

The airline offered flight attendants voluntary paid time off for May and June at “50 percent of the minimum line value.” While the offer protects benefits, flight attendants would still need to complete paid training requirements.

Southwest flight attendants have been advised by Transport Workers Union Local 556 not to accept voluntary leave, as the congressional approval could guarantee full pay through any upcoming travel bans.

“The company created this emergency time off program blindly, quickly, and with complete disregard for what is being negotiated and approved by Congress,” TWU Local 556 said in a letter to members. “Southwest Airlines also claims that they ‘retain the right to reject government funding and the strings that come with it.’”

According to the Dallas Morning News, Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly spent weeks in Washington advocating for the stimulus package, confident that the bill will help the airline avoid layoffs. However, Southwest has made little mention of the bill since senators closed the deal over the weekend.

In the version of the bill passed by the Senate Wednesday night, airlines would receive $25 billion in loans and $25 billion in grants for “the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits.”

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American Cuts Service Due to Record-Low Customer Demand

American Airlines announced Friday the record-low customer demand caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak had forced the carrier to continuing cutting capacity in April and May.

Due to social distancing and travel restrictions, officials from American revealed it would suspend 60 percent of its capacity in April and up to 80 percent of its capacity in May, both compared to the same periods in 2019.

In addition, the airline’s international flights have now been cut by 80-90 percent for April and May, with April’s new service schedule available for booking Sunday and May’s being loaded by April 5.

Federal Aviation Administration officials recently granted carriers additional flexibility in slot-use policies at U.S. airports, allowing American to “better align capacity with demand in light of adjustments to the flight schedule.”

The most significant change for the airline is its service to Hawaii, with flights into Kona, Lihue and Maui all being suspended. American will continue to operate one daily flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

As a result of the altered flight schedule, the carrier is extending its offer to waive change fees for customers who purchase tickets through April 15.

In a report from ABCNews.com, American CEO Doug Parker says the company is eligible for about $12 billion of the $50 billion in grants and loans set aside for airlines in the $2 trillion stimulus bill.

The bill also includes assistance for travel advisors and agents impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

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