More European flights to resume in July but demand seen low

1010 WINS Newsroom
May 18, 2020 - 9:52 am

Passengers, wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, wait in line for check-in on their way to Beijing at the Brussels International Airport in Brussels, Tuesday, May 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Finland's national airline, a major carrier between Europe and China, said Monday it will add more flights and routes beginning in July if governments ease their lockdowns enough for travel to resume.

The outlook for flying overall, however, remains uncertain, with companies forecasting a slow recovery even next year due to public health restrictions and concerns.

Finnair, which had been forced to temporarily cancel flights to mainland China and other Asian destinations because of the coronavirus, said it will restart in phases, “with a strong focus on Asia, which is strategically important” for the state-controlled airline.

The Helsinki-based company said it will fly to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, adding it was pending government approval, but also to Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo Narita in Japan; and to Singapore, Seoul and Bangkok.

“We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July”, Finnair Chief Commercial Officer Ole Orver said in a statement. "Our intention is to operate approximately 30% of our normal amount of flights in July, and we will also start long-haul flights to our key Asian destinations. We will then add routes and frequencies month by month as demand recovers.”

In July, Finnair would also resume flying to several major cities in Europe as well as six domestic routes. Destinations in Spain, Italy and Poland would be added in August.

The airline does not expect passengers to have to sit next to each other as the numbers are forecast to be small.

Spokesperson Paivyt Tallqvist told the AP that customers “are seated as far away from each other as possible” with the exception of families, which can sit together. Seating is reviewed at the gate.

She added that as of Monday, “we require everyone to wear a mask onboard, as masks are considered to be a good solution for those situations where maintaining distance is not possible.” The masks are to be worn during the entire flight but doesn’t apply to children under 7.

Passengers will be asked to stand at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) from each other at the airport, buses will be kept half empty, and customers will be are asked to avoid unnecessary movement in the cabin.

Budget airline Ryanair, which had been the busiest carrier in Europe before the pandemic hit, has also said it is preparing to restart flights in July, pending an easing in lockdowns. On Monday, it said it expects a record loss of 200 billion euros ($220 billion) for the April-June quarter, when the heaviest restrictions on public life were implemented across Europe.

It also expects a slow recovery, estimating it will carry only 50% of its previously forecast number of passengers in the fully year 2021.

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