Sunday evening March 15, I fly to Dublin, Ireland with American Airlines. Little did I know when I booked my trip that this would be the very last day for that flight until at least May. Flights from Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix to London Heathrow, Dublin and Manchester will be suspended on March 15 and the return trips back to the USA will be flown March 16.
These are part of a 75% cut in American’s international capacity which will be accompanied by a 20% cut in its domestic capacity in April and a 30% cut in May. The changes will result in the airline parking nearly all of its widebody fleet. The airline will not be flying to Australia, NZ, most of South America, all of Europe and cutting its London flights to two flights a day with just three flights to Asia per week — all to Tokyo. It will continue short-haul international flying.
Officially these cuts will last until May 6 but I suspect, they will be longer.
The airline industry is really, really hurting. New business on almost every route in the world is non existent and current customers are clogging phone lines, Twitter DMs and waits of five to six hours to cancel trips. Planes fly almost empty with stressed fearful passengers looking at every fellow passenger who sneezes, coughs or splutters.
The decision by the US President Donald Trump to lock most of Europe out of the USA followed later by Saturday’s inclusion of UK and Ireland in that sent a shock wave through global tourism and trade. With a raft of other travel restrictions, (eg Australia making all visitors self isolate and NZ locking all visitors out and China being out of bounds leaves global airlines with little market.
If you are booked to fly any long distance international flights with American Airlines international flight over the next month, you are not going anywhere. Don’t bother calling. Wait times, as I mentioned, are four to six hours. American’s Reservations team will apparently contact customers whose flights have been canceled directly by email or telephone. Customers who booked through a travel agent will be contacted by their agency directly. If a flight is canceled and a customer chooses not to be rebooked, they may request a full refund by visiting aa.com/refunds.
The airline has announced its offer to waive change fees for customers who purchased tickets prior to March 15 for travel to Europe, including the United Kingdom or Ireland, through May 31.
Airlines globally need to waiving all of these fees. I tried to change a flight between Dublin and Bangkok and Etihad told me that I have to pay a $200 change fee and a $130 difference in fare. Virgin Atlantic who were taking me between the US and Europe next week wanted me to pay $1500 fare change on a $1400 fare. So I wait, because surely they will end up cancelling that trip? HK Airlines refused to refund my trip to Hong Kong. I understand that the airlines are hurting but this inconsistent treatment of customers dents our loyalty to the companies.
It’s scarey watching this industry teeter. How many airlines will fail ? President Trump met with US airline CEOs two weeks ago to discuss the coronavirus outbreak and how the carriers are coping with the massive impact to their businesses as demand for travel continues to collapse. The airline industry (and the global economy) is going to have to hang in there somehow. President Trump has ruled out a bailoutwhich airlines got after the September 11 attacks. We all have to work out how to re boot the industry when we have dealt with the virus. Who is really hurting are the employees in airlines, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. This is showing we need robust systems to protect those people financially.
In the meantime, stay safe.
- WHO information on the virus
- CDC: People at Higher Risk
- Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations (including schools)
- Communication Resources for Travel
- Travel just got interesting- Impacts & Info for a Pandemic.
- CoronaVirus- Health Info Country by Country
- COVID19 Virus -alerts, symptoms, safety & information
- Do I wear a mask on the plane? Latest on staying healthy.
- Six times Round the World- My 2019 Travel Highlights.
- What to do to prepare for a potential disaster while travelling
- Premier Inn less helpful than North Korea in emergency situations