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How airlines prepare for UK lockdown?

The UK is entering a month-long lockdown. All non-essential travel in the country and abroad will be banned from November 5 to December 2, 2020, with a possibility to extend the ban beyond that date. Similar restrictions are in action in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In late October 2020, when the UK government added Canary islands to the safe travel list, multiple airlines reported a surge of bookings. However, the new travel ban is expected to trigger the number of cancelled flights and demands for refunds. 

Low-cost carrier EasyJet said it will review its schedule and most likely cancel the majority of flights for the period of the lockdown. In October, in an effort to raise more capital, EasyJet completed the sale and leaseback deals of nine aircraft. They raised a total of $398.6 million. However, company’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said there was an urgent need for Government support for the airline industry. 

Jet2 and British Airways also said they were reviewing their schedules. British Airways have been pressuring the government to work on alternatives to travel restrictions such as pre-departure COVID-19 testing. 

UK’s largest holiday carrier, TUI Airways, canceled all holiday packages and flights. They announced that flights to holiday destinations will be unable to go ahead between November 5 and December 2.

Ireland’s carrier Ryanair announced that passengers would not be refunded for flights in November unless they were cancelled. They would instead offer a possibility to change the flight to a later date. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Ryanair’s passenger numbers have dropped by 80%. The airline reported a €196.5 million loss for the period compared with a €1.15 billion profit last year. Company’s CEO Michael O’Leary said the airline paid out €1.5 billion refunds during the pandemic.

Other European airlines were also affected by the new coronavirus-related restrictions. AirFrance-KLM group announced that “After a promising summer until mid-August, new governmental restrictions impacted the expected level of demand recovery”. AirFrance plans to operate at just 35% of its pre-COVID schedule, compared with previously planned 50%.

Since Germany announced the new restrictions, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) (LHAB) (LHA) cut its fourth-quarter flight schedule to 25% of 2019 levels and grounded another 125 aircraft. 

The Airports Council International Europe stated that about 193 out of 740 airports would struggle to pay the bills if government-imposed lockdowns remained in place. 

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