Airlines reduce schedules coronavirus

U.S. airlines announced service cuts Tuesday to counter the
plummeting demand caused by the Covid-19 virus. 

“This is a crisis that is going to have a large near-term
impact on revenue,” United president Scott Kirby said during a presentation at
the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference. 

United had already announced a 10% cut to domestic capacity
and a 20% cut in international flying for April. On Tuesday, Kirby said the
carrier expects to increase the cut to 20% systemwide for May, and to either
maintain or increase the reduction after May until it sees concrete signs of
increasing demand. 

Other airlines made similar moves Tuesday. 

Delta will implement a 15% system reduction. The changes are
to include a 10% to 15% drop in domestic capacity. Transatlantic capacity will
be down 15% to 20% and transpacific capacity will be down 65%. The carrier also
plans to drop its Latin America capacity by 5%.

American said it would drop domestic capacity by 7.5% for
April while reducing international capacity for the summer peak season by 10%.
The cuts are to include a 55% reduction in transpacific capacity. Domestic
cuts, the carrier said, will be undertaken through frequency reductions on
heavily serviced routes and via the cancellation of selected routes that can be
easily re-accommodated. 

Spirit, too, will trim its April schedule. The carrier still
plans to offer 9% more capacity in April than it did last year, but that’s down
from a planned 14% increase. 

JetBlue, meanwhile, previously committed to a capacity cut
of 5% through early May.

Bucking the trend is Alaska, which stated Tuesday that is
has no material cuts scheduled for March and April. 

“We are analyzing the need to consolidate frequencies or
trim flights that would operate at a cash loss in May and beyond,” said the airline.

Kirby presented some of the most dismal data at
the conference, saying that since the spread of Covid-19 outside Asia, United’s
gross domestic bookings are down 25%. Net bookings, which factor in
cancellations, have dropped 70%. The figures are even worse for Asia and
Europe, where gross bookings are down 50% and 70%, respectively. 

Delta CEO Ed Bastian had similar news. Delta has seen a 25%
to 30% decrease in net bookings since the virus spread beyond Asia. And the
carrier is preparing for the situation to get worse.

United is modeling for a scenario in which demand falls 70%
systemwide in April and May, and then 60% in June and July. Kirby stressed that
the model isn’t a forecast, but rather a method to prepare for whatever comes. 

News out of the conference wasn’t entirely bad. American CEO
Doug Parker said that ahead of the summer season, the carrier last week took
the unusual step of putting some of its lowest fare buckets on the market
early. As a result, bookings increased.

“There’s a real demand for air travel,” Parker said. 

Airlines also reported that domestic load factors have
remained strong, even if slightly down from before the crisis. Spirit, for
example, reported that load factors from March 1 to March 8 ranged from a high
of 88.5% to a low of 76.6%. The carrier estimates that its load factor for the
full month will be 81.4%. 

The various airlines also boasted of their strength entering
this sharp downturn, including high levels of liquidity. The Covid-19 outbreak
will put a halt to what has been the longest sustained run of profitability in
the U.S. airline industry’s history. 

American, for example, has $7.3 billion in cash on hand,
Parker said.

“Seven billion isn’t a target we need to run the company.
It’s a target we always wanted to have in place for situations like this,” he

JetBlue has $1.2 billion in cash and cash equivalents, said
CEO Robin Hayes, which is approximately 15% of total 2019 revenue. 

Kirby said United is prepared to weather the storm, even if
federal assistance, hinted at by President Donald Trump on Monday, doesn’t

“We are not going to count on any sort of government
intervention,” he said. “We are going to manage the airline to make sure we
make it through the crisis without any of that.”

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Canceling a cruise due to coronavirus? Here’s a list of updated policies

Just like the cancellations of airline flights to Asian and European countries, travelers with reservations on several cruise lines may be worried by the growing spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

a large ship in a body of water: Cruise ship in caribbean sea

And it’s no wonder. Vice President Mike Pence confirmed on Friday that 21 passengers on the Grand Princess Cruise ship, which is currently anchored near San Francisco, have tested positive for coronavirus.

With some travel companies offering steep discounts, the $45 billion cruise industry is taking action. Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade organization, announced Wednesday that additional screening measures will be taken in response to the spread of the disease. Cruise lines that are members of CLIA include Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Effective immediately, these companies and all other CLIA members must follow these guidelines:

  • Deny boarding to all people who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in South Korea, Iran, China (including Hong Kong and Macao) and any municipality in Italy subject to quarantine within 14 days prior to embarkation.
  • Conduct illness screenings for all people who have traveled from, visited or transited through airports in any destination listed on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus disease 2019 information for travel page within 14 days before embarkation.
  • Deny boarding to all persons who, within 14 days before embarkation, have had contact with or helped care for anyone suspected or diagnosed with having COVID-19.
  • Conduct preboarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures.

If you are looking to cancel your trip, be sure to check your cruise line’s cancellation policy (or travel insurance coverage). While it varies from company to company, most cruise lines will refund a portion of what you paid. However, the closer it gets to your departure date, the smaller that refund will be, and in some cases, that amount could be zero.

Below is a list of the latest policies by major cruise lines for boarding as well as updated cancellation policies. Find out if your trip might be impacted:

Carnival Cruise Line

As a CLIA member, Carnival is complying with all screening and operational protocols listed above.

There are no itinerary changes for upcoming trips as of March 5.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises is complying with all CLIA restrictions and will additionally deny boarding to any guest who transited through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao 15 days prior to departure as well as guests who came in contact with people who reside in those areas.

These precautions will remain in place for a projected 30 days. All guests denied boarding due to the restrictions will receive full refunds.

For itinerary changes, guests aboard a cruise that leaves March 17 will replace an embarkation from Singapore with one in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Travel to Thailand will be replaced with more time at seas and extended port times in India.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line has emailed guests booked on upcoming cruises with details of the CLIA restrictions. The cruise line will screen all guests before boarding, and anyone who feels unwell or shows flu-like symptoms will not be permitted to sail. The email has been shared online by guests who received it.

On its website, Disney Cruise Line lists “no advisories at this time”.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is complying with all CLIA travel restrictions.

As of March 5, the cruise line has “modified, cancelled or redeployed a number of sailings and none of our vessels are calling to ports in mainland China.” Additionally, the company has suspended any deployments in East Asia through the end of the third quarter. Itineraries have been altered as needed to avoid at-risk areas.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises is extending the CLIA travel restrictions by denying boarding to:

  • Any passenger or crew member who has been in China, Hong Kong and Macao within 30 days of embarkation
  • Anyone holding a passport from those places

The cruise line has reportedly canceled all cruises in Asia through August.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is a CLIA member and updated its health and travel advisory this week to comply with the association’s restrictions. Any crew members from China, South Korea or the lockdown areas in Italy will be delayed from joining any ship until further notice.

As of Feb. 17, Princess Cruises canceled 23 voyages scheduled for later this year, the majority departing from Shanghai. Guests booked for these cruises will receive a compensation package, according to the company.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent is complying with the CLIA travel restrictions and will additionally deny boarding to any passenger or crew member holding a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macao passport.

For all cruises between April 3 and Nov. 1, passengers who have paid in full have the option to cancel their trip up to 30 days prior to departure and receive 100% of that amount in cruise credit, which can be applied to any future Regent cruise in 2020-2021.

There are no future itinerary changes as of March 5.

Royal Caribbean International

While a CLIA member, Royal Caribbean is going one step further in health precautions. The cruise line will deny boarding to any guest who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran, South Korea and Italy in the past 15 days. The 15-day limit also applies to people who have come in contact with someone who traveled to the aforementioned countries or had contact with or helped care for someone suspected or diagnosed with having COVID-19.

The cruise line will also perform mandatory, specialized health screenings on the following guests:

  • Any person who reports feeling unwell or demonstrates any flu-like symptoms
  • Any guest who has traveled from, to or through Japan or Thailand in the past 15 days
  • Guests who are uncertain about contact with individuals who have traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Thailand or Italy in the past 15 days

Guests with a fever or low oxygen levels in the blood during the screenings will be denied boarding. Royal Caribbean will provide full refunds for all guests denied boarded due to these restrictions.

Viking River Cruises

Viking is implementing “enhanced health screening procedures for all guests and staff,” including a health care questionnaire to be completed before boarding. Any guests who traveled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao within 14 days prior to the trip will not be permitted to board.

If guests wish to cancel their trip, there is temporary exception to the standard cancellation policy, allowing them to change their cruise date or cancel their trip up to 24 hours before the planned departure without incurring cancellation fees. The temporary exception is applicable to all guests who made a reservation prior to March 2, and all guests who make a new reservation through April 30.

There are currently no changes to any Viking itineraries as of March 5.

Virgin Voyages

This newly launched cruise line is currently abiding by CLIA restrictions. Virgin is expanding on the restrictions and will deny boarding to anyone who has been in the following countries within the last 21 days before departure:

  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Italian regions of Milan, Lombardy and Veneto

Any guest who has had close contact with people suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19 are also subject to the 21-day ban.

On March 2, Virgin announced they are postponing any upcoming events in New York City amid the coronavirus spread and will return for a later date.

This article was originally published on March 5, 2020.

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