Willie Walsh faces tough questioning from MPs

Willie Walsh faced a series of questions via video conference from MPs at a Select Committee meeting this morning.

Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) was quizzed on a range of topics, including potential redundancies at BA, passenger refunds and how airlines will help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee, orchestrated a number of questions from fellow MPs from all sides of the House and drew out significant comments from Walsh.

Among the topics covered were:

  • Potential redundancies among BA staff and the consultation process.
  • The refunds due to passengers for cancelled flights and rearranged bookings.
  • State aid accessed by airlines within the group, including a Spanish government-backed loan of up to €1bn and UK government aid totalling in the region of £300m.
  • The level of cash being burned by IAG during the coronavirus-forced cessation of services.
  • Press reports of IAG “buying” 200 aircraft from Boeing – a purchase Walsh explained had not been confirmed.
  • The actions airlines within IAG will be taking to protect passengers and staff from coronavirus.

We will be publishing further information on some of these issues later this week.

BA owner sees “meaningful return” in July

International Airlines Group is planning for a “meaningful return” in flights from July, but says it does not see a recovery in passenger traffic to 2019 levels until 2023.

In a communication to investors, IAG stated:

IAG is planning a meaningful return to service in July with a planning scenario that could see an overall reduction in passenger capacity of c.50% in 2020, but these plans are highly uncertain and subject to the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The group has taken advantages of the UK’s UK’s Coronavirus Corporate Finance Facility and Spain’s Instituto de Crédito Oficial facility. It expects that its second quarter 2020 will be significantly worse than the first quarter.

British Airways has formally notified its trade unions about a proposed restructuring and redundancy programme which is subject to consultation.

Willie Walsh, IAG Chief Executive stated:

We are working with the various regulatory bodies and are confident that changes in regulations will enable a safe and organised return to service. The industry will adapt to new requirements in the same way that it has adapted to developments in security requirements in the past. However, we do not expect passenger demand to recover to the level of 2019 before 2023 at the earliest. This means Group-wide restructuring is essential in order to get through the crisis and preserve an adequate level of liquidity. We intend to come out of the crisis as a stronger Group.

In addition, IAG Chairman Antonio Vazquez has announced today that Luis Gallego will succeed Willie Walsh as Group Chief Executive on 24 September.

Antonio Vazquez said:

We announced in March that Willie would delay his retirement for a short period. We can confirm today that Luis Gallego will take over the leadership on 24 September, the expected date for IAG’s AGM, when Willie will step down as CEO. We are grateful that Willie delayed his retirement at this challenging time providing the airlines’ management with the necessary stability to focus on the immediate response to the crisis. We look forward to working closely with Luis in his new role.

KLM mandates face masks and increases daily flight capacity

KLM has become the latest airline to mandate the use of face masks by passengers.

In a statement released on 4 May, the carrier stated that the requirement for masks starts on 11 May.

The statement said:

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, KLM has introduced many measures around screening and hygiene to protect customers and KLM staff, on board and at airports. KLM’s policy is based on national (RIVM) and international (WHO, IATA) guidelines, and complies with international law and regulations. In situations where social distancing cannot be guaranteed, the wearing of face masks will be recommended or made compulsory. Some destinations already require face masks to be worn on board flights.

Starting 11 May, masks will be compulsory on board and during boarding.

The airline also clarified that passengers will be responsible for providing their own face masks.

The announcement comes as KLM confirmed the reintroduction of a number of flights. One, daily flight will operate to Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw and Helsinki, operating from 11 May. This will meet KLM’s target of reintroducing 15% of the airline’s pre-pandemic capacity.

Lufthansa Group mandates use of face masks for passengers

Passengers on Lufthansa Group flights for the next four months will be required to wear face masks.

Mouth-nose covers will be a compulsory prerequisite throughout the entire journey on Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings flights until 31 August 2020.

Passengers are required to use face masks on Lufthansa Group flights until at lest the end of August 2020

In addition, Lufthansa Group is asking all passengers continue to wear masks at the airport, before and after the flight, wherever the required minimum distance cannot be guaranteed without restriction.

The group has also provided details of changes to in-flight procedures:

The current regulation of Lufthansa Group Airlines to keep the neighbouring seat free in Economy and Premium Economy Class will no longer apply, as wearing the mouth-nose cover provides adequate health protection.  Due to the current low occupancy rate, seats will nevertheless be allocated as widely as possible throughout the cabin. 

Passengers are required to wear masks throughout the flight as well as at the airport

All flight attendants on Lufthansa Group flights in direct contact with customers will also wear a corresponding mask.

Passengers are requested to bring their own mouth and nose cover. A reusable fabric mask is recommended, but all other types of coverings such as simple disposable masks or scarves are also possible. The airlines will inform their passengers in advance by SMS or e-mail and on their websites about the new regulation.

The airline group also gave information about the likelihood of transmission on its flights:

In principle, infection on board remains very unlikely. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, no concrete cases of transmission on Lufthansa Group flights have become known. All Lufthansa Group aircraft are equipped with the highest quality air filters, which guarantee air quality similar to that in an operating theatre. In addition, the air circulates vertically instead of being distributed throughout the cabin

The requirement comes in to force on Monday, 4 May 2020 and will “preliminarily apply” until 31 August 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty to industries in the United Kingdom and beyond. The travel industry is not immune to the disruption caused. But at Global Travel Management we are committed to ensuring we provide a safe business travel management service and that our clients have access to up to date information and guidance.

What we are doing

We are monitoring the Covid-19 pandemic and how the travel industry is dealing with it very closely. Members of our management team are in regular dialogue with industry bodies and are working to ensure that travellers’ best interests are at the forefront of decision-making. We will be happy to answer any questions you have.

We have closed our office premises and transferred all travel management functions to employees working from home. You can still reach Global Travel Management by phone or email in the usual way.

Where you can get more information

We have a news page on our website that gathers some of the most important and breaking news on Covid-19 and its impact on the travel industry and business travellers. Covid-19 news page.

You can follow our Twitter account which contains business travel news as it breaks. GTM Covid-19 tweets. (Opens in new tab).

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a frequently-update page offering guidance for British people travelling overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. FCO guidance for travel. (Opens in new tab).

The UK Government’s has published advice: “Covid-19: what you need to do”. (Opens in new tab).

The Association of British Travel Agents has produced “Advice on travelling”. (Opens in new tab).

British Airways is helping thousands of British travellers return home from India

British Airways is flying thousands of UK nationals who have been stranded in India as a result of the Covid-19 crisis back to the UK this week.

The airline has already flown back thousands of travellers as part of 65 rescue flights which have either operated or are planned to operate in the coming days from destinations across the globe. This is through agreements with travel operators including cruise companies and national authorities, as well as part of a continued effort between British Airways and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to bring people home from cities all over the world. The airline is also carrying hundreds of tonnes of essential supplies including medicines and personal protective equipment to the UK through IAG Cargo.

More flights from India to the UK are continuing this week.

In India the airline is serving eleven airports across the country with special flight departures over a period of two weeks. Flights are taking off from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai and the airline has also extended its operation to serve additional cities which include Goa, Amritsar, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. The repatriation effort has been a collaboration between the UK and Indian Government authorities, British Airways and the airport teams in both Britain and India.

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said:

It is an honour to support the government’s repatriation efforts and keep a small fleet of aircraft flying to bring stranded Britons back to the UK.  When families step foot on board our aircraft and tell us how emotional it feels to be coming home, it reminds us why the job we are doing is still so important. We are hugely proud of our colleagues who continue to work with such dedication and commitment through this crisis to fly people and essential supplies across the world.

The Foreign Office’s Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said: 

We know this is a difficult time for British travellers in India and we are pleased to have partnered with airlines, including British Airways, to get them home. This is a huge and logistically-complex operation, and we are working tirelessly with the Indian Government and state authorities to help more British travellers get home.

United reinstates some international flights…

United Airlines has announced it will continue to fly six daily operations to and from a number of destinations in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the Middle East “in an effort to get customers where they need to be.

The airline has describe the situation as “fluid” but claims that “United continues to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world, especially in these challenging times”.

United Airlines flights continuing until and through May:

  • Newark/New York – Frankfurt (Flights 960/961)
  • Newark/New York – London (Flights 16/17)
  • Newark/New York – Tel Aviv (Flights 90/91)
  • Houston – Sao Paulo (Flights 62/63)
  • San Francisco – Tokyo-Narita (Flights 837/838)
  • San Francisco – Sydney (Flights 863/870)

In addition to the above, United Airlines has reinstated the following flights to help displaced customers who still need to get home.

Flights through until 27 March, outbound

  • Newark/New York – Amsterdam (Flights 70/71)
  • Newark/New York – Munich (Flights 30/31)
  • Newark/New York – Brussels (Flights 999/998)
  • Washington-Dulles – London (Flights 918/919)
  • San Francisco – Frankfurt (Flights 58/59)
  • Newark/New York – Sao Paulo (Flights 149/148)

Flights until 29 March, outbound

  • San Francisco – Seoul (Flights 893/892)

In destinations where government actions have barred the airline from flying, United Airlines are looking for ways to bring customers who have been impacted by travel restrictions back to the United States. This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the local governments to gain permission to operate service.

If you need help planning how to get home, contact your GTM Account Manager.

European Commission proposes EU-wide travel ban

The European Union is proposing suspending all non-essential travel for 30 days. Only residents, family members and essential staff – healthcare workers and medical experts – will be exempt from the measures.

The Commission presented guidelines to Member States on health-related border management measures in the context of the COVID-19 emergency. The aims are to protect citizens’ health, ensure the right treatment of people who do have to travel and make sure essential goods and services remain available.  

European Commission President Ursula von der Lyen said:

Our measures to contain the Coronavirus outbreak will be effective only if we coordinate on the European level. We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens. But let’s make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market. This is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food. It’s not only an economic issue: our single market is a key instrument of European solidarity. I am in discussion with all Member States so that we confront this challenge together, as a Union.

She later confirmed the position with regards to UK citizens at a press conference:

UK citizens are European citizens so of course there are no restrictions for the UK citizens to travel to the continent.

United States bans travel from the UK and Ireland

The United States is to extend its European coronavirus travel ban to include the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

The Vice-President of the United States, Mike Pence, announced that the US government will be extending their travel ban (affecting countries in the EU Schengen area) to include the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The ban will begin at midnight Eastern Standard Time on Monday 16 March (04:00 GMT Tuesday). US citizens will be able to return home after this date, however, they will be “funnelled” through selected airports.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice to the United States, advising against all but essential travel

More and more airlines are now relaxing their previous rules and making tickets even more flexible.

Reacting to the latest announcement, Global Travel Management Sales Director Paul Baker said:

Global Travel Management, will be monitoring all comms from the world’s airlines so that we can help our customers to re-book and/or obtain refunds as they need to.

If you need to change your flight plans following the latest restrictions, please contact your GTM Account Manager.

See how GTM is tackling coronavirus for business travellers.

How we’re tackling coronavirus for business travellers

At Global Travel Management we are working hard to ensure all clients’ business travel plans run as smoothly as always, despite the ongoing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak. 

To ensure that trips go ahead with as little disruption as possible, we have implemented a four-point plan based around knowledge, communication, certainty and mitigation.

Knowledge

Our teams of travel consultants are kept up to date on the latest situations on the geographical limitations imposed by airline schedule changes and what special measures must be undertaken when travelling to affected areas.  If you need to tap into this pool of expert knowledge, just ask your GTM Account Manager.

Communication

We will continue to provide relevant, timely communication on the latest situation via emails, news updates on our website and alerts on our Twitter page.  If the situation changes during a trip, we will also provide relevant alerts via Dave, GTM’s traveller-supporting app.  For the latest updates, please see Coronavirus – a guide to the latest travel news and medical advice.

Certainty

Our teams rely on comprehensive, accurate and industry-leading feeds of information, with access to up-to-the-minute data on schedules, changes and availability, so we can ensure the latest, most accurate information on the current situation.

Mitigation

We create and amend itineraries to ensure the most-appropriate and most-efficient use of travellers’ time.  And, when necessary, we can provide alternatives and have back-up plans ready, for when travellers’ schedules have to change. 

If you would like to discuss your travel plans or have any questions about Covid-19 and how it might impact the business trips you are planning, please contact your GTM Account Manager.