The International Air Transport Association (IATA) fears that governments might require airlines to remove middle seats to contain the risk of coronavirus infection. Passengers might be required to wear masks in flight and planes might have to be frequently disinfected. Only four companies might break even.
Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Airlines might have to increase their fares on the Asia-Pacific route by more than 50 per cent under social distancing rules to contain the COVID-19, this according to Brian Pearce, IATA’s chief economist, who spoke at a teleconference this week.
This rise would be caused by the elimination of middle seats on planes to protect passengers from the coronavirus. “[By] removing the middle seats, [the] cost of providing services is higher, eventually airlines will have to reflect that in fares to have viable operations,” Pearce said.
IATA represents 290 airlines and covers 82 per cent of global air traffic.
As the pandemic developed, many countries closed airports and cut back interactions with other countries, reducing air traffic by 95 per cent. Many airline companies face huge losses, and climbing back up won’t be easy.
Certain proposals have been made to reduce the risk of contagion among passengers, including greater on-board social distancing, frequent cabin sanitisation, mandatory masks for passengers as well as other health and safety measures at airports.
Airlines are especially concerned about mandatory social distancing in planes as it would mean eliminating middle seats. If this happen, cheap flights will be impossible. Ryanair for example has already announced that if states impose such a measure, it will no longer fly.
According to several industry experts, to regain market presence, companies will try to entice travellers with low prices, but this cannot be sustained for any long period of time.
Only four airlines out of 122 surveyed by IATA could break even at load factors below two thirds whilst the other 118 carriers would be loss-making.