United Airlines, the third largest carrier in America by revenue, has become the first major airline in the country to release financial details since the coronavirus pandemic brought travel demand to its lowest level in decades.
Although figures are preliminary, it is estimated the Chicago-based airline have lost $2.1 billion in the first quarter of 2020. This is 17% lower compared to the same period in 2019 and their biggest loss in twelve years.
The impact of COVID-19 on the industry has been well documented with carriers feeling the effects of worldwide travel restrictions. Earlier today, Virgin Australia entered voluntary administration and now, United, who are already set to receive $5 billion in payroll support as part of the US airline bailout package are now applying for an additional $4.5 billion in emergency government loans to help weather the crisis.
Whilst there are ongoing debates and plans to reopen the US economy, airlines do not expect a rapid turnaround in consumer demand for air travel anytime soon as evidenced by flight schedules being slashed across the board even into May. United for example cut around 80 per cent of its flying capacity for April and that’s increasing to 90% in May.
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The budget airline has announced that it plans to keep middle seats empty to allow for social distancing once lockdown rules are lifted.