With COVID-19 disrupting airline travel, airlines are taking drastic measures to stay afloat.
Some airlines have cut all international flights, while others have slashed 90-percent of their upcoming scheduled flights including domestic.
From parked aircraft that may never fly again, to the impending doom of laid-off workers, no one knows what the future of aviation holds – but most can agree it will be altered in a significant way.
And while the billion-dollar airline bailout prohibited airlines from laying off workers through September 30th, sources say it’s almost impossible airlines will be able to keep all their employees once the deadline has passed.
Here’s a breakdown on where the biggest carriers currently stand and what to expect in the upcoming months.
If you’re planning to fly this May or June with United, you might be out of luck.
Clearly feeling the impact of COVID-19, United experienced a whopping $2.1 billion loss in its first quarter.
As a response, they’ve slashed a crazy number of flights…
… we’re talking 90 percent of flights are no longer scheduled to fly in May and they’re looking to do the same for June.
A memo from United executives to their employees claims the challenge that lies ahead is “bigger than any we have face in our proud 94-year history”.
United continued to warn employees that even when Americans do begin to travel again, they won’t be able to “bounce back quickly” and plan to make their workforce smaller starting October 1st.
And given the way United has treated passengers during COVID-19 by refusing to refund canceled flights, one can’t even begin to imagine how much worse things will get.
Delta lost $534 million in its first quarter and is projected to take another massive hit in the upcoming 2nd quarter.
To try and stop the bleeding, Delta is set to reduce its flight schedule by 85 percent – including a 90-percent cut for international flights, reported Reuters.
Delta is doing everything they can – from parking over 600 aircraft to closing airport lounges to reducing the number of fights.
But even with all these efforts, Delta admits they have no idea when the end is in sight.
Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian spoke about the uncertainty with raw candor.
ABC News reported:
“We have to be prepared for this to take several years to recover,” Bastian said. Whether it’s three years or two years or four years is anyone’s guess. None of us have ever seen anything like this before.”
Of all the airline carriers, Delta seems to be cooperating the best with providing refunds to customers due to COVID-19 cancelations.
Southwest has already cut half of its flights for both May and June and is prepared to lay off workers in the upcoming fall months if necessary.
They’ve currently suspended all international travel, but have plans to slowly reinstate limited flights to certain locations beginning in just a few weeks.
What makes things even stranger during this pandemic is that Southwest has just earned the ranking as the “largest carrier in the world” – a title previously held by American Airlines and Delta.
The Points Guy reported:
“According to OAG, Southwest was scheduled to fly just over 3 million seats during the week of April 13, compared to less than 1 million on United in the same period.
Now, it’s worth noting that the “world’s biggest airline” total is more typically denoted by metrics like total revenue or passenger seat miles — and both of those counts are also in a state of flux right now, too. American has been the largest by both of those standards for the better part of the past five years, though it split the title with Delta in 2019.
Still, that Southwest could move to No. 1 in the world by “seats flown” count underscores just how pervasive the shakeup caused by coronavirus has been in the airline industry.”
However, cancelled Southwest flights are still causing headaches for customers.
And, given their reputation of not exactly prioritizing customer service, it’s no surprise they find themselves in a lawsuit for refusing to refund money to one passenger for a canceled flight.
The passenger’s lawyer hopes to turn the situation into a class action lawsuit and help thousands get back their money.
One can expect this trend to continue with the other stingy airlines that are refusing to give travelers refunds and only providing vouchers.
During a worldwide pandemic, American Airlines decided to actually take advantage of the situation and raise the fees of checked baggage for transatlantic flights from $60 to $75 for the first bag.
The price increase went into effect April 21, 2020.
Not that we recommend you check a bag anyways – but it’s unbelievable that American just received a bailout and thinks it’s cool to raise fees on passengers.
In response to COVID-19, they are also retiring over 100 of its planes early.
The Future Of Travel
One can only expect things to get worse in the upcoming weeks when traveling by air.
It’s not like airlines are going to suddenly “lower” the increased fees they’re charging customers to check bags.
Price increases will likely stay the same and may even go up.
Flights will likely be more expensive.
Customer service is bound to be worse.
And one can expect even more flight disruptions and flight cancelations as airlines struggle to regain their footing.
Once it’s safe to travel again, be prepared – there’s going to be a lot of turbulence.
(h/t Proud American Traveler)