Delta cuts flights by 40%, halts Europe service, grounds 300 airplanes

Delta Airlines announced Friday it is scaling back flights by 40% and suspending service to most of Europe amid the coronavirus crisis, CEO Ed Bastian stated in a letter to employees.

Delta is the latest airline to take drastic measures this week; others around the world are canceling flights and laying off workers.

“Demand for travel is declining at an accelerating pace daily, driving an unprecedented revenue impact,” Bastian said. “We are currently seeing more cancellations than new bookings over the next month. The speed of the demand fall off is unlike anything we have ever seen.”

Delta will reduce flights by 40%, eliminate flights to continental Europe for 30 days and park as many as 300 planes. Delta will maintain service to London.

Other measures Bastian announced include reducing capital expenditures by $2 billion, initiating a hiring freeze and offering employees voluntary, short-term unpaid leave.

The latest blow for the airline industry was touched off by President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that, beginning Friday night, travelers from 26 European countries would be barred from visiting the U.S. for 30 days.

The news sent airline stocks tumbling. Shares of United Airlines and Delta Airlines closed down by more than 20%, and American Airlines was down about 17%.

American said it will cut international capacity by 10%, including a 55% reduction in seats for the trans-Pacific market and 7.5% reduction on domestic routes. United said it would cut capacity by 20%.

Alaska Airlines in March and April will reduce its schedule by 3%, mostly on high-frequency routes.

Lufthansa on Wednesday said it will slash an additional 23,000 flights between late March and April 25, after last week forecasting a 50% cut in capacity in the coming weeks and the possible grounding of its fleet of 14 giant Airbus A380 aircraft.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, last week said the industry could lose up to $113 billion in revenue this year in a worst-case scenario.
The coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, has killed more than 4,700 people and infected more than 128,000 globally.