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TRAVEL NEWS

European airlines cutting fares to woo back passengers

With the coronavirus crisis putting a chill on travel, European airlines are reducing fares to attract passengers and fill the planes that are still flying.

European airlines cutting fares to woo back passengers
Photo: AFP

Travel restrictions adopted by many countries to stem the spread of the disease have clobbered airlines, bringing air traffic to a near halt in the spring. And while traffic picked up during the summer, it is now falling off again.

According to Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic in Europe, traffic has been slowing over the past couple of weeks, and is now 54 percent below its comparable level last year.

A European airline trade association has put August traffic even lower, at just 30 percent of 2019 levels.

Eurocontrol is now more pessimistic about a recovery for the sector.

In the spring it had expected traffic to be 30 percent below 2019 levels in October, but it now sees a 57-percent drop.

While the pandemic has left airlines starved for cash, they have begun to cut fare prices.

According to ForwardKeys, a company which analyses the tourism market, airlines trimmed fares from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands to destinations in southern Europe by 15 percent in August compared with the same period last year.

In a study released Thursday it found that prices on some routes were down by more than one third.

'Entice travellers'

“You have to entice travellers to return to flying and price is a factor,” said Reginald Otten, deputy managing director for France at budget airline easyJet.

He said the airline had managed to reopen some routes during the summer and the planes it flew were nearly full.

“But we are nevertheless around 30 percent of capacity, which is a very, very low figure, and the summer is the most important, most popular (time) for people to travel,” he told AFP.

Lower prices also stimulate traffic, according to Eddie Wilson, head of Ryanair DAC, one of the two firms which operate flights under the Ryanair brand.

Ryanair, which has used a low-cost model to become one of Europe's biggest airlines, this week launched a brief buy-one-get-one-free promotion.

“At some stage you can't sit there and look out of the window and hope that things will be alright and wait for the politicians to do something,” he said.

Beyond cutting prices, airlines can and are focusing on their most profitable routes.

But the reimposition of travel restrictions and tighter quarantine and testing measures could quickly undo their planning and efforts.

European airlines earlier this month urged national capitals to coordinate measures to limit the spread of the virus, saying the current patchwork of restrictions is hobbling a return to regular travel around the EU.

Airlines are responding to the drop in demand for travel “with the tools they have in hand: reducing capacity and promotional offers, but they have no control over the evolution of the pandemic and policies on restricting travel,” said Oliver Ponti, vice president of ForwardKeys.

“The effect of low prices will thus be limited, especially as consumers remain worried about their plans being disrupted and rapid reimbursement of their tickets in case of cancellation,” he added.

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STRIKES

TRAVEL: Delays expected as Italian airport workers strike on Friday

Passengers travelling to and from Italian airports were warned to expect delays on Friday, January 27th, due to strikes by baggage handlers and other staff, with Milan's Linate set to be worst affected.

TRAVEL: Delays expected as Italian airport workers strike on Friday

Strike action on by staff from airport ground service companies may result in delays and queues at some Italian airports, with ticket desks, check-in and baggage handling likely to be affected.

At the national level, ground support staff will take part in a strike held by several of Italy’s biggest trade unions during the day, while an additional strike by baggage handlers at Milan’s Linate airport is expected to cause further disruption.

“It won’t be so much a problem of cancelled flights, even if sometimes the airlines seize the opportunity to cancel one that would leave half empty, but of delays,” Renzo Canavesi, CUB union leader for the Lombardy region, told La Stampa.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

At Linate, ground service company Swissport Italia and handling companies Airport Handling and Air Cargo plan to strike on Friday.

Staff from Swissport Italia will hold a 24-hour strike at Linate, while the other two ground operators will strike for four hours (from 10.30am to 2.30pm for Airport Handling; from 9pm to 1am of the next day for Airport Cargo).

Passengers are advised to arrive early for flights and to check the status of their service before leaving for the airport.

Passengers may be entitled to compensation in the event of severe delays or flight cancellations. See our guide for further details.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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