Due to aviation rules in Europe that state airlines operating out of the continent risk losing their business to competitors if they don’t continue to run 80% of their allocated slots, thousands of gallons of fuel have been wasted while planes fly empty amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Times of London reported that UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote a letter to Airport Coordination Limited, requesting that the rules be suspended, stating his concerns for even greater economic and environmental damage.
Shapps wrote, “I am particularly concerned that, in order to satisfy the 80/20 rule, airlines may be forced to fly aircraft at very low load factors, or even empty, in order to retain their slots. Such a scenario is not acceptable. It is not in the industry’s, the passengers’ or the environment’s interest and must be avoided.”
Airport Coordination Limited did suspend the rules for flights in and out of Hong Kong and China, however, the 80/20 rule remains in place for all other flights. According to The International Air Transport Association, the outbreak is projected to cost the airline industry up to $113 billion worldwide — losses similar to those the airline industry experienced in 2008, during the global financial crisis. Taking the brunt of the financial burden would be airlines in Europe and Asia.
As of March 9th around 2pm EST, there have been 111,156 confirmed cases of coronavirus across 106 countries, and 3,888 deaths. In the United States, 617 cases have been confirmed, along with 22 deaths. Experts estimate that if the virus is contained soon, aviation industry losses could total around $63 billion. However, as it continues to spread, the economic impact continues to worsen.