The economic impact of the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus outbreak on the aviation sector is being felt far beyond Asia with even El Al Israel Airlines now warning its staff and shareholders over the financial effects of the virus. In a new internal memo, El Al chief executive Gonen Usishkin told staffers that “painful decisions” may need to be made and that there were “difficult days ahead”.
On Sunday, Israel’s Ministry of Health added four more countries and territories from which returning visitors would be subject to 14-day home quarantine. Along with mainland China, anyone who has been in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau will be isolated on their return to Israel.
El Al has already cancelled all services to Beijing and Hong Kong but following the Ministry of Health’s updated guidance, the airline announced it would also halve its current services to Bangkok.
“The company is in contact with the relevant authorities and entities in Israel and around the world and continues to monitor this issue regularly,” the airline said in an update to the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the government’s announcement.
El Al had previously estimated it would take at least a $30 million hit from the Coronavirus outbreak in the first three months of 2020 but hoped to offset some losses through lower operating expenses. The new restrictions, along with falling demand across its route network, is likely to result in an even bigger impact.
“We are in the midst of a global event, and it is too soon to predict the impact,” Usishkin told staffers, reassuring crew that their “safety and security will always be our top priority.”
The airline estimates there are around 5,000 Israeli’s still in Thailand who need to be flown home. Cabin crew and pilots will be expected to operate flights to Bangkok but won’t need to self-quarantine on their return. They’ve been told to remain in their hotel rooms, avoid contact with locals and adhere to strict personal-hygiene protocols.
“I assure you that we will do everything we can to successfully get through these days and we will do so responsibly, transparently and without haste,” Usishkin continued but warned “dramatic steps” may follow.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.