Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has decided to halt “most of” its flights, stating that the demand for air travel has effectively fallen to zero. The move comes along with “temporary work reductions,” affecting some 10,000 employees.
“As an effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and the measures that authorities have taken, the demand for international air travel is essentially non-existent,” the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden said in a statement Sunday.
Starting on Monday, SAS will “halt most of its traffic” and resume its operations only when “conditions to conduct commercial aviation” arise again. The company will still operate return flights for those desiring to get back to Nordic countries.
Here we go: Scandinavian Airlines – one of Europe’s top 10 carriers – has decided basically close down during the coronavirus outbreak. 10,000 people temporarily out of work. Full company statement: pic.twitter.com/ohqOA1ZpNU
— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) March 15, 2020
“We will be at the disposal of the authorities to on their behalf take home stranded citizens or maintain infrastructure important to society, as far as possible,” SAS said.
The substantial halt in operations will drastically affect the company’s employees. Some 10,000, effectively 90 percent of its workforce, are set to be temporarily laid off – or to be subject to “temporary work reductions,” as the company put it.
The coronavirus outbreak, classified a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this week, has taken a heavy toll on air carriers. Fall in demand for travel amid the virus scare, as well as travel restrictions imposed by many nations, have already sent airline stocks into a nosedive.
On Friday, the three largest airlines in the US – Delta, American and United – said that they were in talks with the US government over potential state assistance due to the drop of air traffic. Meanwhile, European carriers are taking a heavy blow as well – for instance, British Airways reportedly told its employees it is to lay off workers both in the short term and “perhaps long term,” while Swiss International is taking half its fleet out of service and reducing working hours.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said this week that up to 50 million tourism jobs could be lost because of the Covid-19 pandemic as it “presents a significant threat to the industry’’.
According to WTTC figures, the travel sector could shrink by up to 25 percent this year. On a positive note, the council’s Chief Executive Gloria Guevara said that “Travel and tourism has the strength to overcome this challenge and will emerge stronger.”
The tourism industry has been massively affected by the spread of the novel coronavirus, as many countries have introduced travel restrictions to contain its spread. Thousands of international flights have been canceled, with some insurance firms suspending travel coverage for new customers.
Statistics show that Chinese airline passenger numbers dropped by almost 85 percent last month. The country’s aviation regulator said on Thursday that the drop had caused a 21 billion yuan ($3 billion) fall in revenue.
Korean Air has warned that Covid-19 could threaten its survival. According to data from Tourism Economics, the US travel and tourism industry could lose at least $24 billion in foreign spending this year. That would be equivalent to about seven times more than the industry lost during the SARS outbreak in 2003.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk