Global airline alliances unite in the face of COVID-19

Star Alliance, SkyTeam and oneworld urge stakeholder intervention

Tom Bradley International Terminal, Los Angeles International Airport | Image credit: Nicholas Young

The three major global airline alliances have sought government and stakeholder intervention on the collapsing airline industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance represent 60 airlines around the world and have come out in support of the International Air Transport Association’s call for regulators to suspend slot usage rules at airports for the 2020 Northern Summer period, if not the entire operating season.

The objective would “alleviate the unprecedented challenges” facing the global airline industry as the aviation sector suffers from an “extraordinary” drop in passenger demand, the trio said in a very rare coming-together.

In a statement the alliances said they welcomed a decision by some regulators who have suspended slot regulations temporarily and are urging others to follow suit promptly.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry is significant, with IATA estimating up to US$ 113 billion in revenue losses for global passenger airlines. The impact is expected to have a ripple effect through the value chain that supports the airline industry. The forecasted revenue loss scenario does not include travel restrictions recently imposed by the US and other governments. US restrictions on passengers from the Schengen Area will place pressure on the US-Schengen market, valued at over US$ 20 billion in 2019,” the group said.

London Heathrow Airport

“During such times of difficulty and uncertainty, it is important that the airline industry works even closer with stakeholders to mitigate adverse impacts from the virus and collaborate in areas within our control,” oneworld CEO Rob Gurney said. “Governments must implement the measures they consider necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19, and must be prepared for the widescale economic implications that will result from those measures.”

SkyTeam CEO and Managing Director Kristin Colvile said: “The human and financial impact that the COVID-19 outbreak is having on the aviation industry is unprecedented. SkyTeam, with its alliance partners, and on behalf of member airlines, is urging all involved institutions and industry stakeholders to face these extraordinary times with exceptional measures. This includes action such as slot relief, airport and overflight fees reduction.

Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh said: “The unprecedented circumstances triggered by the coronavirus outbreak pose an existential threat not only to the airline industry but more generally to global trade and commerce, and social connectivity. As airlines stretch their limits to manage the crisis, it is equally critical for governments and stakeholders to avoid further burdens and step up with measures, as some have, that will ensure the future of the travel industry.”

Member airlines of the three global alliances have implemented urgent measures to address the impact of COVID-19, such as very significant capacity reductions, cost-saving initiatives, enhanced cleaning procedures and customer support outreach.

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