New Data Shows Scale of the EU Travel Ban's Effect on Airlines

 - March 20, 2020, 12:08 PM
Air France ordered 10 more Airbus A350-900 widebodies in December 2019, but the carrier now faces a significant dip in traffic as a result of government-imposed travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Airbus)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.


The European Union’s ban on almost all non-citizens crossing its borders is set to result in the loss of almost 50,000 airline flights and more than 10 million seats, according to travel analytics group ForwardKeys. With airlines worldwide bleeding cash and issuing increasingly desperate pleas for state assistance, its latest data published on March 19 raises important questions about the viability of carriers responding to government requests to maintain essential services.

“At present, it is not clear exactly what proportion of the 48,200 [canceled] flights between the EU and so-called ‘third countries’ will be canceled because the EU guidelines clearly contemplate that a skeleton service needs to be maintained for essential travel and it is up to each member state to decide on the extent of implementation in their own territory,” commented ForwardKeysvice president insights Olivier Ponti. “However, it is inevitable that this guidance will have an extremely substantial negative impact on connectivity.”

According to ForwardKeys, Air France appears set to take the biggest hit from the travel ban, with a loss of around 800,000 seats, while France collectively loses more than two million seats. Its analysis shows many other carriers all facing big reductions in traffic, listing them in descending order as follows: Lufthansa, Emirates, KLM, Wizz Air, Qatar Airways, Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Aeroflot.

The group expects two million fewer airline seats on flights in and out of Germany during the ban, which will last for an initial 30 days. The Netherlands and Spain will each lose around one million seats.

ForwardKeys bases its analysis on data generated each day from the airline industry’s Global Distribution System, which it says accounts for around 30 to 40 percent of total bookings. It also considers completed searches from the Skyscanner website and looks at Cirium’s flight capacity and airport data.

“Air capacity to and from China has fallen by a fifth of what it was before the Coronavirus outbreak,” Ponti stated. “With the imposition of a ban on travel to the USA from the Schengen [EU] countries from Friday [March 13] and from the UK and Ireland on Monday [March 16], almost nobody can go to the USA from Europe. Now with the latest restrictions on travel, this time proposed by the EU, we are looking at a totemic moment in the reduction of air travel and connectivity between different regions of the world.”

Preliminary data published on March 20 by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) showed an initial 19 percent reduction in scheduled airline capacity since last weekend’s announcement of the indefinite U.S. ban on European travelers. The agency projected that if the ban were to result in the suspension of all transatlantic flights, it would create a loss of up to 5.5 million passengers each month.

ICAO’s latest Economic Impact Analysis of the Effects of Covid-19 on Civil Aviation provides detailed analysis of seat capacity, passenger numbers, and revenue losses for countries that so far have seen the most severe effect of the Coronavirus pandemic, including China, South Korea, and Iran. It also provides a preliminary analysis of air transport fallout in Japan and Singapore.