Updated – 01st April 2020
Flight News & Airline Gossip from around the World, just small bits of information that we feel you might be interested in.
TUI completes ‘mammoth’ mission to bring 45,000 holidaymakers home
TUI has successfully completed its mission to fly 45,000 holidaymakers home, with the arrival of 265 passengers at Birmingham Airport from Cancun on Sunday.
The repatriation programme was mounted by the travel company in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company said the ‘complex process was planned as government and local authority advice changed and countries closed their borders’.
As well as returning TUI customers, hundreds more holidaymakers, unable to get home with the airlines they had travelled with, were repatriated by TUI from destinations including Goa, Jamaica, Turkey, Spain and Marrakech.
Almost a thousand TUI cabin crew and 362 flight crew team members put in over 11,000 flying hours to get customers home.
The repatriation effort was supported on the ground by over 2,500 TUI destination reps overseas.
In the last 10 days 192 TUI airways flights have taken off from 30 overseas airports in destinations across the world from Spain, Turkey and Greece to Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand, bringing customers and 320 overseas destination reps back to 16 UK airports.
Fifty-eight TUI aircraft will now be based at key UK airports including London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Doncaster, Newcastle, East Midlands and Bristol, until they take to the skies again.
Now customers are home, TUI is supporting the repatriation programme announced by the Government yesterday with aircraft and crew deployed to bring Brits back from a range of destinations, including a rescue flight from Tunis departing today.
TUI UK & Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham said: “I don’t think anyone could have imagined just a few months ago that we would be where we are today. We have dealt with the largest repatriation operation our business has ever seen, bringing 45,000 of our own customers, and hundreds of other holidaymakers, back from overseas, and now our operation, and the entire, travel industry is temporarily ‘on pause’.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who played their part in getting our customers home as safely and as quickly as possible. And to our customers, for their patience and understanding. It is an unpredictable time but one thing I can say for certain is that when it’s safe to do so, and people want to travel again, we’ll be ready to take them on holiday.”
Stelios justifies his 60-million-pound dividend from easyJet
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has defended a £60 million dividend he and his siblings received from the airline 10 days before the carrier grounded all aircraft.
The payout was part of a £174 million dividend made to shareholders, which was signed off in February when ‘the world looked like a much happier place’, he said.
Stelios and his siblings are the largest single shareholders in easyJet, holding a 34% stake.
In a statement, he said the cash was ‘automatically’ paid to shareholders on March 20 and payments were ‘impossible to stop’.
He hit back at calls to return the money, saying people who suggested he did so were ‘naïve’ and ‘malicious’, adding easyJet ‘is not a charity’.
His statement said: “I am perplexed as to how that would work? To be used how? To pay that money straight over to Airbus?
“And what is the consideration for such a gift? Or is it meant as a selfless charitable donation? Charity towards which deserving cause exactly? easyJet is not a registered charity to receive donations and neither is Airbus.
“That’s not how publicly listed companies work.”
He is threatening to seek the removal of board members unless easyJet pulls out of a contract with Airbus to provide 107 aircraft, which he said will cost £4.5 billion.
Foreign Office begins UK’s largest peacetime repatriation
The UK Government is to start repatriation flights this week for the ‘tens of thousands’ of Brits still overseas who are unable to get home because borders have been closed and flights suspended due to coronavirus.
The flights, amounting to £75m, were announced by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday, during the Government’s daily briefing on coronavirus.
Up to one million Britons are throught to be stranded abroad as airlines halt flights and countries shut borders.
Travellers will be allowed to use different carriers or fly on different days, under an agreement thrashed out between the Government and airlines.
Raab said: “We have not seen challenges on this scale in recent memory,” adding: “International collaboration is vital.”
He added: “On March 17, we advised people against all non-essential travel. Since March 23, we advised that UK residents should return home.
“Many travellers haven’t yet managed to get back home.
“I want to assure them that this government is working around the clock to support and help travellers to get home.
“We are working with airlines to keep as many routes open as much as possible. Our first priority is to keep as many commercial flights going.
“I can announce a new arrangement between Government and the airlines to fly an additional tens of thousands of stranded passengers.”
He said BA, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2, Titan Airways and others are taking part in the repatriation flights, adding ‘the list can be extended’.
“We will target flights from a range of countries, starting from this week.
“Where commercial routes remain an option, airlines will be responsible for getting people home.
“Where commercial flights are no longer running, the Government will provide special flights. In arranging these flights, our priority will be the most vulnerable and countries with the largest amount of British nationals needing to get home.”
He said passengers will pay for the flights through ‘a dedicated travel management company’, CTM.
When availabilty comes up for a flight, embassies and missions around the world will alert any British national in their country wanting to come home.
UK travellers should check Foreign Office advice and also follow the social media posts of the embassy or high commission in the country where they currently are.
Ryanair confirms further cuts to schedules
Ryanair is cutting flight schedules by more than 80% from tonight and says it could ground all flights early next week.
It said from midnight on March 24, it expects that ‘most if not all’ Ryanair Group flights will be grounded, except for a very small number of flights to maintain essential connectivity, mostly between the UK and Ireland.
It urged affected customers not to call because call centres are overloaded dealing with queries. Instead, it said customers will receive an email.
“Over the past few days, the spread of the Covid-19 virus has led most EU Governments to impose severe travel bans and restrictions, which have had a negative impact on the schedules of all Ryanair Airlines, causing widespread cancellations and travel disruptions across the network.
“We advise customers considering travel that all Government travel restrictions must be followed. The situation changes on a daily basis, and we encourage customers to check relevant local guidelines issued by their Government before they travel, and our Travel Advisory page for more information on country-specific restrictions.”
Ryanair said it will continue to stay in close contact with the Foreign Ministries of all EU Governments on the repatriation of EU citizens, and where possible may operate rescue flights to support this repatriation.
“Ryanair sincerely regrets all disruptions caused by this unprecedented Covid-19 crisis,” it said.
“The safety and well-being of our people and customers is our main priority and we will continue to comply with all WHO and EASA guidelines, as well as all Government travel restrictions which have been imposed over recent days to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
“All our thoughts and prayers are with our people and our customers and their families as we work our way through this crisis.”
Airlines ground flights amid warning many could go bankrupt by May
UK airlines are cutting operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, amid a warning that many global carriers could go bust unless there is a co-ordinated approach from governments and industry.
EasyJet said it will operate rescue flights for short periods ‘where we can’ but is halting some operations.
“These actions will continue on a rolling basis for the foreseeable future and could result in the grounding of the majority of the easyJet fleet,” the airline said in a statement.
British Airways owner IAG said on Monday coronavirus was ‘having a significant and increasingly negative impact’ on demand on almost all routes and will reduce year-on-year capacity by 75% in April and May.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, who has postponed his planned retirement to see the group through the coronavirus emergency, said: “We have seen a substantial decline in bookings across our airlines and global network over the past few weeks and we expect demand to remain weak until well into the summer. We are therefore making significant reductions to our flying schedules.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he will meet the transport sector this week, while Virgin Atlantic has told the Government the UK aviation industry needs emergency support up of up to £7.5bn.
Ryanair said restrictions imposed by a growing number of countries will see the grounding of the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next seven to 10 days. In those countries where the fleet is not grounded, social distancing restrictions may make flying to all intents and purposes, impractical, if not, impossible.
For April and May, Ryanair now expects to reduce its seat capacity by up to 80%, and said a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out.
The airline said: “Ryanair is taking immediate action to reduce operating expenses, and improve cash flows. This will involve grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending, and implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significant reductions to working hours and payments.
“We are working with our people and our unions across all EU countries to address this extraordinary and unprecedented Covid-19 event, the impact and duration of which is, at this time, impossible to determine.”
Industry consultancy CAPA Centre for Aviation warned most of the world’s airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May without help from the government and industry.
CAPA said: “Co-ordinated government and industry action is needed – now – if catastrophe is to be avoided.
“As the impact of the coronavirus and multiple government travel reactions sweep through our world, many airlines have probably already been driven into technical bankruptcy, or are at least substantially in breach of debt covenants.
“Cash reserves are running down quickly as fleets are grounded and what flights there are operate much less than half full.
“Forward bookings are far outweighed by cancellations and each time there is a new government recommendation it is to discourage flying. Demand is drying up in ways that are completely unprecedented. Normality is not yet on the horizon.”
CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty warned: “The threat to the survival of some businesses is real the longer this goes on.”