Airlines, Airports and Airliners News - 30 March to 5 April 2020

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein


Comair announced a restructuring plan to improve its efficiency and financial sustainability following its H1 2020 interim results, recent difficult economic conditions and the unprecedented crisis facing the global airline industry.

Wrenelle Stander, Comair CEO said: "Our results for the first half of the 2020 financial year showed that although our revenue grew at 3% during the six months, we could not sustain the additional costs of 14% resulting from some underperforming investments and significantly higher fleet and maintenance costs which severely impacted the company's profitability."

"While the decision to renew our fleet was the right one at the time, the pace of renewal in an underperforming economy placed a burden on operating costs and profitability. In 2019 alone we took delivery of five additional Boeing 737-800 leases, as well as a new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft."

The transfer from SAA Technical (SAAT) to Lufthansa Technik Maintenance International (LTMI), while progressing according to plan, means that the airline will be paying for two maintenance providers until at least end June 2021.

Finally, the grounding of the Boeing MAX 8 has had multiple negative financial impacts: Continued use of wet leases to replace three MAX 8 aircraft which would now be in the schedule; Cash lock-up of US$45million in the MAX 8 pre-delivery payments, as well as interest payments on the debt portion of the pre-delivery payments and Interest payments on the first MAX 8.

"Despite our efforts over the last few months to preserve cash, maintain liquidity; divestment from non-performing acquisitions; aggressive cost reduction across the Group; taking back control of the fleet and unlocking further operational efficiencies, more remains to be done," said Stander.

"Today we initiated a Section 189 process in terms of the Labour Relations Act, to protect jobs and to ensure the sustainability of the Comair business."

She added Comair had been acknowledged as one of South Africa's Top Employers and remained proud of that, "and we have always known that our personnel are our greatest asset. Consequently, reducing our staff complement is a decision taken with great regret."

We continue to pursue cost reduction measures across the group to mitigate the impact on our staff.

The financial situation has been aggravated by the impact of Covid-19. The airline has been cancelling and combining flights in response to lower demand. We will continue to adjust our operation to the rapidly evolving situation.

For the foreseeable future the primary focus will be on restructuring the balance sheet as well as cash preservation.

A focussed, executive team continues to focus on the long-term sustainability of the organisation.


Airlink, the South African-based domestic and regional airline, has suspending all operations after midnight Thursday, 26 March 2020 in support of South Africa's lock-down to slow and contain the spread of the COVID-19 "Coronavirus".

"In the face of this global public health emergency, the safety and well-being of our customers, crew, employees their families and communities is our priority. It is our responsibility and civic duty to support and comply with the new and stringent measures restricting everyone's movement, which were announced on Monday night by President Ramaphosa," said Airlink Managing Director and Chief Executive, Rodger Foster.

"We intend to gradually reinstate a new optimised schedule of services once the lock-down has been lifted. While the restrictions are currently intended to last for 21 days, we will take our cue from the Government and the relevant health authorities. Our target date for recommencing operations will be 20 April 2020 and we will continue to keep our Customers, travel agents and operators informed should unforeseen circumstances necessitate a change to this date" added Mr Foster.

Airlink had already planned to operate independently using its own flight code "4Z" from 11 June 2020:- this will now be brought forward to 20 April 2020 as we resume our schedule.

The last date for the acceptance for travel on Airlink SA8 flights for passengers holding SAA "083" tickets was on Thursday 26 March 2020. Thereafter passengers will need to purchase a new ticket on Airlink - 4Z (749).

Holders of tickets for travel on SA8 after 26 March 2020 with a ticket number commencing with the digits "083" should contact SAA for a refund as SAA holds the funds paid in advance for these bookings on behalf of customers. SAA refunds may be contacted on +27 11 978 1786 or email Airlink SA8 flights will no longer feature after 26 March 2020.

Airlink has requested SAA to temporarily suspend the interline agreement which was implemented to facilitate the re-accommodation of current SAA bookings issued in conjunction with Airlink's SA8 flights which were to have been re-accommodated onto Airlink's 4Z flights.

Airlink Customer Care team will be available in the lockdown period during office hours to assist passengers with queries about 4Z bookings on We are still seeking clarity from the authorities on our ability to operate additional customer and agent telephonic support during the lockdown period.

"On behalf of Airlink, I want to thank our customers, suppliers and service providers for their patience, understanding, support and cooperation during these unprecedented times, in this unfortunate apocalyptic situation that is totally beyond our control" said Mr Foster.


Air Seychelles has announced that the airline has suspended all flights across its regional network due the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The decision taken follows intensified travel advisories, national lockdowns and closures at ports of entry within the Indian Ocean, South Africa, India as well as in the Seychelles, in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In addition, the airline has also further revised its domestic schedule to offer only two rotations between Mahe and Praslin daily effective Thursday, 26 March, 2020.

Travellers across the airline's network are advised to alter their dates of travel without incurring a change fee. For those unsure of their exact travelling dates, Air Seychelles is recommending that travellers to proceed with cancelling their reservation now and rebook without a fee for travel at a later time.

Air Seychelles operated its last flight yesterday from Johannesburg to the Seychelles. The airline aims to resume services on its regional network on Saturday, 18 April 2020.

In adherence with the guidelines from the local Department of Health, travellers are requested to avoid visiting the airline's sales offices and to view for the latest flight schedule and bookings.


Changi Airport Group (CAG) and the National Heritage Board (NHB) announced today that one of the two remaining iconic analogue flight information display boards at Changi Airport Terminal 2, which was retired earlier in the month, will be donated to NHB to form part of Singapore's National Collection. Since the announcement of the flip boards' decommissioning earlier in January, CAG and NHB have been working closely together to explore ways to preserve at least one of the airport's beloved flip boards.

Originally located between check-in rows 9 and 10 of the airport's Departure Hall, the flip board had been undergoing de-installation in various stages in February. The different components of the board - comprising over 2,000 pieces of capsules, panels and casings - were documented by NHB and transported to its storage facility for cleaning. The analogue flip boards were decommissioned due to challenges in maintenance and increasing difficulties faced in sourcing for parts.

After thorough cleaning of the components is complete, which is estimated to take six months, the components will be transferred to NHB's Heritage Conservation Centre (HCC) to be accessioned as part of the National Collection. The HCC is the repository and conservation facility for the management and conservation of Singapore's National Collection. At HCC, conservators will assess the condition of the components of the flip board and recommend the necessary plans for conservation and storage. After which, CAG and NHB will explore future possibilities for display and more details will be shared at a later date.


LATAM Airlines Group and its affiliates have operated 115 special flights to date, enabling 16,385 people to return home as part of the group's repatriation program.

"Repatriating our passengers has been LATAM's main priority. We have actively collaborated with governments across the markets we serve and with the great commitment of our people -despite challenging circumstances - we have been able to make a significant contribution to this humanitarian cause," said Paulo Miranda, Chief Customer Officer, LATAM Airlines Group.

Since March 19, 2020, with government support, the program has facilitated the repatriation of passengers who have not been able to complete their journeys due to border closures and other travel restrictions in response the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

On April 3, LATAM is planning another special flight, operated by an Airbus A320 aircraft, that will transport over 170 passengers to Santiago (Chile), beginning its journey in San José (Costa Rica), with stops in Havana (Cuba) and Quito (Ecuador).

Over the coming days, LATAM has at least another 10 repatriation flights planned, enabling passengers to return to Latin America from around the world, including: Miami-Lima, Guayaquil-Santiago, Johannesburg-São Paulo/Guarulhos, Sydney-Santiago and Frankfurt-Santiago.

LATAM reminds those passengers affected by flight cancelations that they do not need to take any immediate action. The value of their ticket will be automatically held as credit for future journeys with the ability to reschedule flights up to December 31, 2020 at no additional cost.


Boeing [NYSE: BA] announced a temporary suspension of production operations at its Puget Sound area facilities in light of the state of emergency in Washington state and the company's continuous assessment of the accelerating spread of the coronavirus in the region. These actions are being taken to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and the local community and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with the requirements of its customers.

Boeing plans to begin reducing production activity today and projects the suspension of such operations that began on Wednesday, March 25, at sites across the Puget Sound area. The suspension of production operations will last 14 days, during which Boeing will continue to monitor government guidance and actions on COVID-19 and its associated impacts on all company operations. During this time, we will be conducting additional deep cleaning activities at impacted sites and establishing rigorous criteria for return to work.

"This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live," said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. "We continue to work closely with public health officials and we're in contact with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders who are affected by this temporary suspension. We regret the difficulty this will cause them, as well as our employees, but it's vital to maintain health and safety for all those who support our products and services and to assist in the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19," Calhoun added.

Boeing is working to minimize the suspensions impact on the company's ability to deliver and support its defence and space programs and ensure the readiness of our defence customers to perform their vital missions. Boeing will work closely with those customers in the coming days to develop plans that ensure customers are supported throughout this period. Critical distribution operations in support of airline, government, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) customers will continue.


The UAE's Abu Dhabi International Airport (UAH) has confirmed the closure of one of its three terminals amid the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Terminal 2 of the airport has been shut down, with flight operations redirected to another terminal.

In a tweet, Abu Dhabi Airport said: "As part of our continuous efforts to provide exceptional service to our airline partners and passengers, we are announcing the closure of Terminal 2 and migrating all existing flights to Terminal 1 at AUH."

Biman Bangladesh, Pakistan's AirBlue and Sudan Airways operate from Terminal 2, while Etihad Airways operates from Terminal 3.

This closure at Abu Dhabi Airport comes in the wake of the Covid-19 infection, which has severely impacted global aviation. Several governments have temporarily banned flights from high risk countries.

Globally, the airport sector has also seen a large downturn in demand due to the virus outbreak.


His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports, inaugurated the Airport Operations Control Centre (AOCC), the nerve centre of Dubai International (DXB) - the world's busiest international airport with 86.4 million international passengers in 2019.

The state-of-the-art facility enables a collaborative approach to managing airport operations by providing information and analyses based on data collated from more than 50 systems fed by 7 billion data points. The AOCC allows operator Dubai Airports, government agencies, airlines and other service partners to monitor every aspect of the operation in real time as well as predict developing situations to respond to them more efficiently. Harnessing big data has helped Dubai Airports deliver a smooth experience to some 240,000 passengers daily and achieve breakthrough service improvements including a 40% reduction in queue time since 2018 and a record 99.96% baggage delivery success rate in 2019.


Delta is supporting medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis by offering free flights to certain regions of the U.S. that have been significantly impacted.

Eligible medical volunteers will be able to book round-trip Delta flights free of charge to Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan, where they will work in coordination with the state and local government offices to be deployed to hospitals in areas hardest hit by the virus. Delta will also look at the possibility of expanding this program to other regions in need, including California, New York, and Washington.

"Right now, we need as many medical professionals as we can get in Louisiana and this generous support from Delta will help these heroes get here to care for our people as we fight COVID-19 in New Orleans and elsewhere in our state," said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. "I thank Delta for stepping up and for being a good corporate partner to help Louisiana during this trying time."

"Our health care professionals are on the front lines every day helping people fight COVID-19, and they deserve all of our support during this crisis," said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. "Delta's action will help our hospitals and health care providers address the influx of COVID-19 patients and help us all bend the curve and slow the spread of this virus. Additionally, I will continue to work to ensure more medical supplies and personal protective equipment reaches our health care professionals so they can protect themselves and their loved ones."


THAI Smile became the second Connecting Partner of Star Alliance. The Connecting Partner Model was first introduced in May 2017 allowing airlines to connect to the Star Alliance network without becoming a member airline. This collaboration is the first of its kind in Thailand.

THAI Smile offers more than 407 weekly flights to 33 destinations in nine countries and regions. As a Connecting Partner, the airline will extend the Star Alliance network by ten new destinations.

From today, passengers travelling on any itinerary, which includes a transfer between certain Star Alliance member airlines and THAI Smile on a single booking, will enjoy comforts such as passenger and baggage through check-in. In addition, customers who hold Star Alliance Silver and Gold status in any Star Alliance member airline's frequent flyer programme will enjoy a tailored set of privileges.

Currently, such privileges are available on eligible connections between THAI Smile Airways and Austrian, Lufthansa, SWISS, and THAI Airways International.

Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh, said: "Our Connecting Partner model was introduced three years ago to offer airlines an attractive way to connect to our global alliance network without requiring full membership, and we are continuing to expand the model to provide customers with more travel options. I am pleased to welcome THAI Smile Airways today as a Star Alliance Connecting Partner, from which customers will benefit through greater connectivity and enhanced services in Asia."


Due to the numerous travel restrictions and regulatory requirements, which have limited the public life in Switzerland significantly, flight operations and activities in commercial centres are reduced to a minimum. Simultaneously, Flughafen Zürich AG has taken extensive steps to preserve its liquidity position.

Swiss International Air Lines will only operate around 40 flights a week for the time being and third-party airlines as well as cargo planes will also provide minimal capacity. The commercial centers are also severely limited due to regulatory requirements. This will have negative consequences for Flughafen Zürich AG; however, the precise impact cannot be quantified at the present time.

To preserve its liquidity position, Flughafen Zürich AG has implemented the following measures: As of today, short-time working hours were introduced for the entire company and further comprehensive cost- and investment reductions have been taken. In addition, the existing credit lines have been fully drawn, which increases the current cash position to more than CHF 600 million. As a result of the robust balance sheet and the high liquidity level, Flughafen Zürich AG will be able to weather the prevailing difficult situation.


Since March 13, when the shutdown of regular operations was mandated by the Government through an executive order, Aerolíneas Argentinas has brought repatriated more than 14,000 Argentine passengers who were stranded in risk areas.

This number has been hit today with the arrival of four special flights: two from Miami, one from Madrid and one from Cancún.

If we consider the number of Argentine passengers who came back from abroad on any kind of flight operated by Aerolíneas Argentinas (on both regular and special flights throughout all of its network comprising 21 international destinations) after March 13, the number of Argentine people who were able to return home exceeds 27,000.

So far, Aerolíneas Argentinas has operated 42 special flights departing from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Florianópolis, San Salvador de Bahía, Bogota, Lima, Cancún, Madrid and Miami.

"Our team is fully aware of what it means to work for the Argentine flag carrier and what the priorities are. This is why I would like to congratulate each and every one of the employees of Aerolíneas Argentinas and Austral, because they gave their best so that these flights could be operated," stated Pablo Ceriani, President of Aerolíneas Argentinas.

Aerolíneas Argentinas is also implementing a special scheduling of domestic flights. Said schedule is intended to guarantee the connectivity within the country in light of the shutdown of regular operations currently in place.

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