The world's largest airlines have laid bare the damage the coronavirus is causing on travel, with three major carriers parking nearly 2,000 aircraft and Qantas Airways Ltd. immediately laying off nearly 30,000 workers in some of the industry's deepest cuts to date.
Lufthansa Group currently only operates 63 of its 763 aircraft fleet, as the effects of the pandemic continues to hammer the aviation industry. Of the group's carriers, Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, and Air Dolomiti have all suspended daily operations, while Lufthansa has terminated long-haul flights from Munich, and Swiss will fly only three long-haul flights a week to Newark.
Measures at Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the largest airline in Europe, go furthest, with Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr announcing he is going to idle 700 aircraft and 95 percent of seats, reducing the flight schedule to the last point seen in 1955.
Delta Air Lines Inc. is grounding half of its fleet to wipe out 70 percent of its capacity while American Airlines Group Inc. is parking 450 aircraft as it cuts international and domestic routes. Qantas is ceasing to work globally.
In conjunction with governments, Lufthansa runs a relief flight schedule until April 19, accounting for just five percent of its scheduled program. More than 20,000 passengers fly home on special services from Lufthansa, Eurowings, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Edelweiss.
"We reduced our flight programs more seriously and quicker than our rivals," Carsten Spohr, of Lufthansa, said in a statement. Spohr added that the decision was, at first, greeted with laughter from their rivals, "but I can assure you that no one in our industry is laughing anymore."
Lufthansa, whose stock market value fell to 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion) nearly half this year, was shielded by German law from aggressive foreign takeovers, Spohr said in response to a reporter's query. The shares increased by 5 percent.
Approximately 60 percent of Lufthansa's costs are variable - like fuel - and they inevitably fall away as operations are wound down. Further benefits are pursued through short-term employment, with the help of German state assistance payments intended to limit layoffs.
Meanwhile, American Airlines' parked planes, which accounts for almost 30 percent of its fleet, come as it slashes international flights by a third and domestic flights by 31 percent. This means eliminating more than 55,000 flights in April, with further cuts coming in May, President Robert Isom said Thursday in a letter to staff. The carrier headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is providing unpaid leaves on a voluntary basis and early retirement to help curb expenses.