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Reeling airlines hit anew by Trump's Europe travel clampdown
[SYDNEY] President Donald Trump's 30-day ban on Europeans traveling to the US delivers a hammer blow to a global airline industry that was already at risk of losing as much as US$113 billion in passenger revenue this year because of the coronavirus.
Foreign nationals who've been in European nations excluding the UK in the previous two weeks won't be able to enter the US from midnight Friday, Mr Trump said from the White House. Minutes later, his administration told US citizens to reconsider all foreign travel.
Flight restrictions or bans are cascading across the world as the outbreak threatens to overrun more countries. Since the start of the year, carriers have lost almost US$84 billion in market value, based on the Bloomberg World Airline Index.
The US controls will almost certainly mean more scrapped flights at European and US airlines - from Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM to United Airlines Holdings and Delta Air Lines - that have seen demand crater as the virus spreads. Struggling carriers like transatlantic discounter Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA may be pushed closer to the brink.
"Things are moving so fast," said Sobie Aviation analyst and consultant Brendan Sobie. "The crisis that the industry is facing right now is likely to be the worst in over 40 years."
Restrictions on Europeans will hit some of the most popular routes to America. France, Germany and the Netherlands are home to three of the top 10 international gateways to the US, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The US is the world's largest air travel market, though China is catching up fast.
Airlines already faced an unprecedented crisis before Mr Trump's near-ban on Europeans entering the country. With the public increasingly avoiding travel for fear of contracting the virus, the International Air Transport Association warned passenger revenues might sink 19 per cent, or US$113 billion, this year. Even the trade group's most optimistic outlook saw revenue losses of US$63 billion.
"As the scenario continues to evolve, so does the assessed impact," IATA, which represents about 290 airlines globally, said in a statement Thursday after the US announcement.
Global airline stocks are tumbling as the outlook darkens. After Mr Trump's statement, Qantas Airways dropped as much as 12 per cent in Sydney - the Australian carrier has lost more than 42 per cent in just three weeks - and Singapore Airlines was headed to its lowest close since September 2001. Cathay Pacific Airways, which on Wednesday warned of a substantial first-half loss due to the virus, declined as much as 5.3 per cent in Hong Kong.
The US Travel Association said 850,000 visitors flew in to the country from Europe, excluding the UK, last March, accounting for 29 per cent of total overseas arrivals. The visitors spent about US$3.4 billion in the US, it said.
"Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel," the association's President Roger Dow said in a statement.