April 17, 2024

Reuters Breakingviews: Global Crises Cause Turbulent Times for Airlines

Airlines have been cutting back flights to troubled locations around the world, from the Middle East to Japan and Western Africa, and in some instances, canceling service.

“We’re seeing some impact on demand,” Richard H. Anderson, chief executive of Delta Air Lines, said in a weekly telephone address to employees about the crisis in Japan. “So we’re making some temporary adjustments to our April and May schedule.”

Last week, Delta announced a 20 percent reduction in capacity on routes to Japan through May. And on Friday, Mr. Anderson said that a new route from Narita International Airport near Tokyo to Guangzhou, China, originally planned to start the beginning of April, would be delayed until July.

Leslie Parker, a Delta spokeswoman, said the airline was going to monitor the situation and adjust as necessary. “If we see the demand coming back we will, of course, bring back the flights,” she said.

Japan is hardly the only turbulent corner of the world.

In Abidjan, the main city in the Ivory Coast, at least 700,000 people have fled their homes amid violence and political turmoil, according to the United Nations. Scheduled flights at Abidjan’s airport for the week beginning April 11 are down 25 percent from the week of Feb. 7, according to Innovata, an aviation data firm. Usually, aviation consultants said, schedules remain flat or increase as the summer season begins.

And the no-fly zone in Libya affects commercial airliners as well as military aircraft. About half a dozen carriers, including British Airways and Royal Air Maroc, have canceled all flights to Tripoli International Airport.

But street protests and even violent government crackdowns do not necessarily mean airlines will avoid a particular country. Innovata found, for example, a 4.5 percent increase in scheduled flights at Bahrain International Airport from the weeks of Feb. 7 to April 11.

And in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where political turbulence erupted earlier and is now leveling off, airlines that made sharp cuts in their schedules are now resuming some of those flights. Last week, Reuters reported that flight capacity in and out of Cairo was down almost 30 percent from January to March. But in Innovata found that scheduled flights for April were rising.

The flight decisions, consultants say, are made on a case-by-case basis.

“One question you have is ask is ‘Do you have security issues at the airport,’ ” said Craig Jenks, an airline consultant based in New York. “Then you’ve got situations where the airport is fine, but the country is not.”

“This is an industry,” he added, “that confronts ups and downs all the time.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/business/global/30airlines.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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