UTC 15:02

Weekly Round-Up: Critical Time for UK and Singapore's Flights to Nowhere!

The boss of iconic airline British Airways has warned the UK government that the airline “can only survive” if airport testing is introduced. A 14-day quarantine has been imposed in Britain, after the number of Covid cases in the country increased in recent weeks.

Fighting for survival

But British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz believes that the entire aviation industry is fighting for its survival, after the company jettisoned 95% of its usual flight capacity at some points during the coronavirus pandemic.

Even today, British Airways is only running at approximately 30% of its usual capacity.

“These are the toughest times in the history of the aviation industry. British Airways can survive, but only if the Government will work with us, rather than against us,” Cruz told the Daily Telegraph.

Cruz went on to urge ministers to urgently review the quarantine procedures, and introduce testing as quickly as possible. And the airline executive noted that many other nations have successfully implemented testing in the last few weeks.

“Thirty other countries have introduced airport testing to unlock the problem so, my question to Government is, why can't we? Ministers must work with international partners to agree on a universal arrivals and departures testing process. Just as safety agreements are mutually recognised internationally, so should health standards,” Cruz commented.

Quarantine measures

No date has currently been set for the removal of quarantine measures, which see people who have travelled overseas subjected to 14 days of restrictions when they return to the United Kingdom. The UK government maintains that this is essential in order to contain the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, claimed that “aviation is in crisis and airlines and airports will go out of business if we cannot resume international travel.”

The comments of Cruz come shortly after an announcement from British Airways that it will reduce its portfolio of flights due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements imposed on the airline. British Airways is expected to operate at 60% less capacity during the October to December months compared with the same period last year.

(Above: The future of British Airways is in the balance. Image: BriYYZ via Flickr)

In this climate, British Airways has been forced to slash 13,000 jobs, and other British airlines are also feeling the pinch. Johan Lundgren, easyJet's CEO, insisted this week that the quarantine measures have “eroded consumer confidence with all airlines”.

Lundgren also asserted that the UK government has one more chance to follow other countries in Europe, and support the aviation industry by enabling carriers to build back more sustainably, helping them economically throughout the ongoing pandemic.

While there has been no direct response from the British government, it has announced that it will publish its aviation recovery strategy in the foreseeable future. This will reportedly balance the needs of the industry and the pressing concerns related to Covid, while also being consistent with its “green ambitions”.

However, the airline industry has generally responded unfavorably to the report. Oliver Richardson, the Unite union's national officer for aviation, asserted that “the publication this autumn of a report, which is aimed at helping the aviation industry recover by 2025, is not going to stem the tidal wave of redundancies that the industry is facing today. Airlines and airports are at real risk of closure. Unless immediate action is taken there will simply not be a recognisable sector to build back up.”

As global air traffic continues to suffer, some airlines are resorting to innovative measures to boost their business. And one of the more novel concepts has emanated from Singapore Airlines, which is planning to offer so-called 'flights to nowhere'!

Charter flights

The new Singapore Airlines initiative will see charter flights start and end at the same airport, with the aim of resurrecting its grounded passenger business. These new flights may also be bundled with staycations at hotels in the city, along with shopping vouchers and limousine ferry rides, as the carrier attempts to make the idea as attractive as possible to consumers.

And Singapore isn't the first airline to conceive this concept. Japan’s ANA Holdings also sold tickets for a charter flight to nowhere last month, while two Taiwan carriers also launched similar campaigns. Starlux Airlines introduced a 'pretending to go abroad' journey, and EVA Airways filled all 309 seats on a special Father’s Day flight.

Market research indicated that 75% of customers surveyed were willing to buy tickets on such a flight. The initiative will help the carrier head towards the black at a challenging time for the entire aviation industry, in which Singapore Airlines has already announced that it will trim 20% of its workforce in the coming months.

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