It’s been a hard year for airlines and their staff in 2020 – one of the biggest way this has been seen is the slashing of fleets through the year.
Let’s look at some of the notable events of the year.
Early Warnings: Air Italy and Flybe halt operations
With COVID-19 starting to rear its ugly head, two airlines fell quickly, with FlyBe going to the wall (allegedly coming back in 2021) and Qatar Airways pulling its support for Air Italy, forcing the grounding of the airline.
Sadly, these wouldn’t be the last casualties, as we’ll explore later.
The culling of fleets
Airlines responded in the ways they could only do – cut jobs, cut routes and frequencies and grounded aircraft. Then, they started getting rid of aircraft. Here’s just a shortlist of major casualties over the year.
Virgin Atlantic – the end of the A340-600 and Boeing 747-400
Virgin Atlantic’s fleet has been through a major simplification exercise – with the airline reducing down to four types of aircraft this year, and one to go. The Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A340-600 have alas seen the end of days, with both types withdrawn. This leaves the A330-200, Airbus A330-300, Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-9 in their active fleet.
British Airways – Farewell Queen
For British Airways, an icon left the fleet, with their entire Boeing 747-400 fleet being axed this year. A smaller icon – the A318 was also axed this year too.
Delta Air Lines
Delta wielded the axe far and wide, with 47 MD-88s and 29 MD-90s operating with the airline in February 2020, with the 149-seat MD-88 retired. On top of that, the Boeing 777-200LR fleet was withdrawn too.
American went for a major cut in their fleet, shedding a lot of the legacy fleet in the process, including Airbus A330-300, Boeing 757-200, Boeing 767-300ER, Embraer E190 and Bombardier CRJ-200.
American Airlines A330-300
American Airlines Boeing 757-200
American Airlines Boeing 767-300ER
For Air France, the biggest axe fell on its Airbus A380 fleet, as it withdrew it en-mass.
An accelerated departure, but the end of the A310 for Air Transat, which met its end in March.
AirBaltic – an A220 airline only.
airBaltic’s fleet has been simplified, with the Dash8 and Boeing 737 fleet exiting, leaving the Airbus A220-300 in its fleet.
Lufthansa’s fleet reduction has been hard, hitting the A340-600 and A380 fleets in particular, with them all mothballed at the time of writing.
KLM also waved goodbye to its 747 fleet this year too – another victim of COVID.
Austrian is to bid farewell to its older Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft as well.
And that’s just a few that I’ve remembered.
The casualty list
COVID-19 hit the belly of the airline industry for airlines that had minimal reserves, had soft demand or just couldn’t adapt. A full list is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines_impacted_by_the_COVID-19_pandemic and it makes for sobering reading.
- Virgin Australia – having to shed the majority of its workforce and fleet – and being taken over.
- Ernest – A small European carrier went out of business
- LEVEL Europe – that IAG venture went pop.
- NokScoot – The joint venture was liquidated, as the airline had no hope of making money.
- Alitalia – No. Just… No. I’m refusing to talk about it, on the grounds of how much money has been wasted.
- Air Asia Japan – Cut due to not being able to turn a profit
- Cathay Dragon – folded into Cathay Pacific.
Towards 2021: The Roller-coaster ride isn’t over
Sadly, for 2021, “It’s not over yet” springs to mind, as the tail end of 2020 has shown with new variants of COVID-19 showing. How this will impact airlines is going to be hard, as countries lock back down again, or strengthen their immigration policies.
The dreams of breezy, easy travel, for now, is just that until the virus is contained.
Whilst there is hope with vaccines coming on-stream, for airlines, hotels and the travel industry, the recovery seems far away for now.
Welcome to Economy Class and Beyond – Your no-nonsense guide to network news, honest reviews, with in-depth coverage, unique research as well as the humour and madness as I only know how to deliver.