Aviation

Aviation Wrap: Star Alliance’s COVID-19 database, United’s San Fran-Syd repatriation flights + MORE!

Through thick and thin, we’re committed to bringing you the news you need. But we suggest swapping a salad for three courses to match the time it will take to devour this Aviation Wrap.

Star Alliance establishes COVID-19 travel updates database

Star Alliance has established a page on its website offering links to each of its 26 member airlines’ information on coronavirus (COVID-19).

In order to obtain up-to-date and accurate information on each member airline’s travel information, visitors simply click on an individual airline icon.

The page can be accessed here.

United reinstates San Francisco–Sydney flights for repatriation

While United’s international schedule will still be reduced by about 90 per cent in April, the airline will continue flying six daily operations to and from the following destinations in an effort to get customers where they need to be.

Flights continuing from now through to May

  • Newark/New York – Frankfurt (Flights 960/961)
  • Newark/New York – London (Flights 16/17)
  • Newark/New York – Tel Aviv (Flights 90/91)
  • Houston – Sao Paulo (Flights 62/63)
  • San Francisco – Tokyo-Narita (Flights 837/838)
  • San Francisco – Sydney (Flights 863/870).

Flights through 27 March outbound

  • Newark/New York – Amsterdam (Flights 70/71)
  • Newark/New York – Munich (Flights 30/31)
  • Newark/New York – Brussels (Flights 999/998)
  • Washington-Dulles – London (Flights 918/919)
  • San Francisco – Frankfurt (Flights 58/59)
  • Newark/New York – Sao Paulo (Flights 149/148).

Flights through 29 March outbound

  • San Francisco – Seoul (Flights 893/892).

Emirates to temporarily suspend all passenger flights

Emirates Airline will suspend all passenger flights from 25 March for a renewable period of two weeks, as the United Arab Emirates halts all inbound, outbound and transit passenger flights in its effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

It comes as the Emirates Group undertakes a series of measures to contain costs, as the outlook for travel demand remains weak across markets in the short to medium term. These include:

  • Postponing or cancelling discretionary expenditure
  • A freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work
  • Working with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency
  • Encouraging employees to take paid or unpaid leave considering reduced flying capacity
  • A temporary reduction of basic salary for most Emirates Group employees for three months, ranging from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. Employees will continue to be paid their other allowances during this time. Junior level employees will be exempt from basic salary reduction
  • Presidents of Emirates and dnata – Sir Tim Clark and Gary Chapman – will take a 100 per cent basic salary cut for three months.

Etihad Airways to temporarily suspend all services to and from UAE

Etihad Airways will temporarily suspend all flights to, from and through Abu Dhabi following a decision by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), to suspend all inbound, outbound, and transit passenger flights in the UAE.

The airline said the decision was made to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and to protect citizens, residents, and international travellers.

The suspension of flights to and from Abu Dhabi International Airport will commence at 23:59 (UAE local time) on Wednesday, 25 March, and will last for an initial 14 days, subject to further directives by the relevant authorities. Cargo and emergency evacuation flights are exempt and will continue.

In response to the current situation, Etihad is introducing Etihad Credit to give guests the freedom to delay their travel plans by permitting a free cancellation and is offering the original value of their booking to be used as credit towards their next trip.

Regional Express Airlines to cease all passenger services in Australia, except Queensland

Following an emergency board meeting at the weekend, Regional Express Airlines (Rex) has announced it will shut down all passenger services across the country, except for Queensland where the services are underwritten by the state government.

The airline advised that operations will cease with effect from 6 April 2020, unless the federal and state governments are willing to underwrite the losses.

“The federal government has acted swiftly by promising a rescue package to the airlines of $715 million,” Rex deputy chairman John Sharp AM said in a statement.

“However, the direct benefit to Rex from this package is only $1 million a month, which is grossly insufficient to cover the $10 million a month we expect to lose running the heavily reduced schedule we announced last week.”

Sydney Airport confident in “strong balance sheet and liquidity position”

Sydney Airport believes its in a good position to weather losses associated with COVID-19:

“Our average debt maturity has a tenor of over 6 years. We have unrestricted cash of over $370 million and $1.0 billion of available undrawn bank facilities at this time, from more than 10 domestic and large global banks,” it said on the Australian Securities Exchange.

“In addition, as announced to the ASX on 17 February 2020, we have approximately $600 million of new USPP bond market debt, which is due to be funded in June 2020. In total, this will provide us with approximately $2.0 billion of available funds.

“These funding sources more than cover the approximately $1.3 billion of expiring debt over the next 12 months. The next maturity after these 12 months is $200 million due in November 2021.”

The airport is, however, still working through the exact impacts of recently announced travel restrictions and reduced capacity from airlines like Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.

Singapore Airlines makes significant capacity cuts and grounds aircraft

Singapore Airlines will cut 96 per cent of its capacity that had been originally scheduled up to the end of April, given the further tightening of border controls around the world over the last week to stem the COVID-19 outbreak.

This will result in the grounding of around 138 Singapore Airlines and SilkAir aircraft, out of a total fleet of 147, amid the greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence.

The group’s low-cost unit, Scoot, will also suspend most of its network, resulting in the grounding of 47 of its fleet of 49 aircraft.

Air New Zealand enters loan facility and cancels 2020 interim dividend

In a statement on the New Zealand Exchange, Air New Zealand revealed it has entered into a debt funding agreement with the New Zealand Government.

Under the terms of the agreement, the government will provide a standby loan facility of up $900 million to support the airline as it manages the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on its business.

LATAM Airlines updates policy for travellers from Australia and New Zealand

LATAM Airlines Group has announced new change and cancellation policies for customers due to COVID-19 and the resulting travel restrictions.

For customers with tickets to travel until 31 May 2020 to or from destinations with border restrictions (including Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Europe, Israel, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, and Uruguay) and for customers impacted by flight cancellations or schedule changes, the following options are available:

  • Change of date or destination, or both, for flights before 31 December 2020
  • Cancel a booking and gain a travel credit for future purchases before 31 December 2020 or within 12 months of the original travel date.

For customers who have already commenced their journey and wish to change their ticket, contact LATAM’s inside sales team on 1800 221 572.

Scoot update: Self-service refund option and one-time free date change

With immediate effect, Scoot has launched a self-service refund option on its website for all customers with bookings made on or before 15 March 2020, for travel dates until 31 May 2020.

Scoot has enhanced its “Manage My Booking” portal on its website to include a self-service refund button and developed a video to help people through the process, which will allow customers to submit their refund requests online at their convenience.

The refunds, in the form of Scoot travel vouchers, will be processed within 30 business days. Customers who booked their flights through third-party booking channels or travel agencies are advised to contact the relevant channel or agents for assistance.

As of 12 noon on 18 March 2020, 24 hours since the launch of the portal, over 24,000 refund requests have been submitted and over 8,500 customers have already received their refunds.

Solomon Airlines reducing international flying to and from Australia

Following ongoing consultation between the Solomon Islands’ government and Australian government, Solomon Airlines has changed its Australian flight schedule.

Until further notice, flights between both countries will reduce to six flights weekly (three flights in each direction), with flight suspensions envisaged to remain in place until October 2020.

Solomon Airlines is also giving travellers the option to opt for a free one-time date change on flights ticketed before 16 March 2020 for travel to 30 June 2020.

In addition, customers can opt to cancel their flights and use the value of their ticket as a credit towards the purchase of a new ticket for 12 months from its original issue date.

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