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European Pilots Union Likens COVID-19 to the Gulf War, 9/11, SARS and the 2008 Financial Crisis Rolled into One

European Pilots Union Likens COVID-19 to the Gulf War, 9/11, SARS and the 2008 Financial Crisis Rolled into One

Photo Credit: British Airways

Make no mistake, this crisis is going to be grim,” said Captain Jon Horne, President of the European Cockpit Association (ECA) today in reaction to the news that President Trump was banning anyone apart from U.S. citizens who have been in 27 European countries from entering the United States for at least 30-days. “The airline industry that emerges from this crisis, will not look like the one that went into it,” his sober warning continued.

Airlines throughout Europe have already been forced to cancel thousands of flights because of plummeting demand and numerous other travel restrictions enforced by other countries. Lufthansa said it had planned thousands of cancellations but those estimates look now to be grossly small compared to what is about to occur.

“It is neither a Gulf war nor SARS, not September the 11th, or the 2008 financial crisis, but all of them. It is global rather than localised, it is going to last months as a minimum,” Capt. Horne wrote. “People have simply stopped flying.”

Capt. Horne said airlines were in the “firing line” and that the entire aviation industry was “uniquely vulnerable” to the social distancing rules being imposed by health authorities.

“The game for airlines now is one of survival,” but “many” airline will go under warned Horne.

He called on airlines to ignore profits and shareholders and instead use cash reserves to “preserve jobs, livelihoods, families and homes”. “That cash needs to be deployed solely so that our businesses, and that is to say the people and jobs that make them up, are still there when this crisis abates. This crisis will only be successfully managed in a socially responsible manner.”

Yesterday, the British pilots union BALPA criticised the UK government for not doing more to support airlines during the crisis. The union has called on the authorities to temporarily suspend an air passenger tax to reduce the burden on airlines and encourage passengers to book flights.

British regional carrier Flybe has already ceased trading, in part because of the downturn in demand caused by the Coronavirus. China’s Hainan Airlines and its parent company HNA has also been taken over by the provincial government to save it from collapse.

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