Wizz Air has again reduced its capacity outlook for October while KLM has put its short-haul network expansion plans “on hold” as ongoing coronavirus-related travel restrictions force Europe’s airline sector to apply the brakes to its recovery.
These moves at Wizz and KLM follow Ryanair’s disclosure earlier this month that it will shave another 20% off its October capacity, on top of the 20% reduction it announced in mid-August. The Irish budget carrier now expects to operate around 40% of its 2019 levels next month.
Ryanair Group chief executive Michael O’Leary said on 23 September that bookings for November and December were just 10% of where they would normally be at this time of year. Ryanair has been highly critical of the UK and Irish governments’ imposition of quarantine restrictions on arrivals from countries considered to be high-risk Covid-19 hotspots.
Rival low-cost carrier EasyJet also scaled back its capacity plans in early September, citing ongoing travel restrictions. The UK carrier said it expected to fly “slightly less than 40%” of its schedule over the current quarter.
Wizz Air says in a 25 September operational update that it now expects to operate 50% of its October 2019 capacity next month. If travel restrictions remain unchanged, the airline’s capacity will not rise above this level in the course of the winter season.
The central European budget carrier had originally intended to lift capacity to around 80% in the last quarter of the year, a figure it later revised down to 60% before again cutting it to 50%.
On 23 September, KLM said that the planned upscaling of its European network this month had been “put on hold” largely as a result of the UK’s quarantine restrictions.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, KLM’s winter schedule will be a lot more restricted than it was in the same period last year,” says the Dutch SkyTeam carrier, adding that capacity across its European network in November will be 55% of where it was in the same month in 2019.
In August, KLM says it served almost 100% of the destinations in its European network but with capacity at approximately 60% of pre-pandemic levels. The airline served 80% of its intercontinental destinations at 60% capacity, although a third of these flights carried only cargo.
While it will begin daily flights to Poznan in Poland on 25 October, KLM has postponed the addition of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh to its network from 26 September to 7 December.
”KLM was gradually and responsibly expanding its European and intercontinental network, after the corona crisis had prompted severe restrictions on destinations and frequencies,” says the airline, adding that its “primary aim is to offer customers the widest range of destinations, after which we will consider increasing the number of frequencies or expanding capacity by deploying larger aircraft”.