40% of world’s passenger jet fleet grounded, analyst says

Almost 40% of the world’s passenger jets have been taken out of service, according to data from travel industry consultant Cirium.

Its latest bulletin on the Covid-19 pandemic’s effect on the global travel industry suggests that more than 1,850 aircraft have been put in storage since Friday.

The result is that many airports have been transformed into plane parks. Forbes magazine reports that Munich airport, the second largest in Germany, has closed much of its main terminal, and that more than 100 planes are unused on the tarmac.

It adds that the airport has put its expansion plans on hold for the foreseeable future.

The effect has been most severe in Europe, presently the region most severely affected by the virus.

Figures from the European airport trade body, Airports Council International Europe, released two weeks ago, forecast that the region’s airports will have 187 million fewer passengers in 2020, a fall of 7.5% over the year. This will result in a €1.32bn loss in revenues in the first quarter alone, it estimated.

Cirium’s figures suggest that US carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines flew a total of 1,216 of their Airbus and Boeing aircraft on Saturday, 28 March, about a third fewer than the previous Saturday.  

Airports have also introduced measures to control the spread of the virus.

For example, Prague airport in the Czech Republic has designated separate gates for passengers arriving from Italy and employees have been told to monitor those passengers for signs of respiratory disease, and to report any passengers showing symptoms to airport security.

In Italy itself, airports such as Milan’s Bergamo have installed thermal cameras to detect passengers with raised temperatures. Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport now has medical staff to check the health of all passengers.

Many other airports around the world have followed suit. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and Singapore airports now have thermal screening.

In the past week, such screening has been introduced in 20 US airports, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago and the world’s busiest, Hartsfield-Jackson in Georgia. Meanwhile, in South Korea, airline crew are being offered hazmat suits.

Image: A map showing the distribution of the world’s airports (Jpatokal/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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