COVID-19 cases up 100,000 in four days: CAPA update 23-Mar-2020


Welcome to the latest edition of CAPA's daily Coronavirus and Aviation global update. We offer this product to our active CAPA Members, as well as visitors to our website to help our industry navigate through this crisis.

Top news headlines:

- UNWTO forms Global Tourism Crisis Committee in response to COVID-19;

- Singapore: SIA Group to cut capacity by 96% and ground 185 aircraft due to coronavirus outbreak;

- Emirates Airline suspends most passenger services due to coronavirus outbreak and national barriers.

  • UNWTO forms Global Tourism Crisis Committee in response to COVID-19
  • Singapore Airlines to cut capacity by 96% and ground 185 aircraft due to coronavirus outbreak
  • Emirates Airline suspends most passenger services due to coronavirus outbreak
  • Southwest Airlines to reduce capacity by 20% and suspend all international service
  • Air Malta to operate 'lifeline schedule' to facilitate outbound travel for stranded passengers
  • South African Airways suspends all international operations until 31-May-2020

The latest Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Situation

179 countries now affected

14 new countries were added to the list of countries reporting COVID-19 cases, taking the total to 179. These include:








Cabo Verde




Papua New Guinea


East Timor

Confirmed global COVID-19 cases by day (23-Mar-2020)

More than 330,000 cases have been confirmed across the globe.

It took more than three months to reach 100,000 cases worldwide

- but only 12 days to log the next 100,000

- and four days to reach the next 100,000.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases by day, excluding China (23-Mar-2020)

Top ten locations for COVID-19, excluding China (23-Mar-2020)

Top ten highest increases in infections by location (23-Mar-2020)

United States cumulative cases (23-Mar-2020)

Global mortality rate (yellow line) vs. key locations mortality rate (23-Mar-2020)

Daily increase in COVID-19 cases, selected countries : Day 1 = 100 case threshold

The growth rate of the COVID-19 virus has differed greatly between countries depending on the measures in place to combat the spread. Aggressive containment in countries like Japan and Singapore has slowed the pace of spread of the virus.

The comparison below shows the growth rate per selected country once each has reached 100 cases, so there are different start dates e.g. that threshold was reached first for Japan, so that country was 27 days in.

Aggressive containment appears to slow the growth rate (daily counting starts once the country reaches 100 cases)

Air Capacity Update: UK airline capacity decreased by 50% already

The United Kingdom has seen capacity drop by more than 50% in the last three weeks following strict border closures from countries like the US and parts of Europe.

While capacity shows an intended spike back up to previous years volumes for the important summer period it is expected that it will remain below three million seats and in fact decrease considerably further.

United Kingdom weekly total system seat capacity w/c 23-Mar-2020

Aviation & Travel Industry news updates

1. Global

UNWTO forms Global Tourism Crisis Committee in response to COVID-19

UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted a high level virtual meeting on 19-Mar-2020, comprised of key UN agencies, the chairs of its executive council and regional commissions and private sector leaders. All participants accepted an invitation from the UNWTO secretary general to become part of a Global Tourism Crisis Committee, formed as UNWTO prepares to launch a global guide for recovery of the tourism sector.
The UNWTO-led committee will hold regular virtual meetings, reflecting the need for coordinated and efficient action by the private and public sectors, governments, international financing institutions and the UN.
The meeting further emphasised the call for international cooperation to underscore a united response based on the latest public health recommendations and reflecting the deep economic ripple effect and social cost of the pandemic. [more - original PR]

2. Asia

Singapore: SIA Group to cut capacity by 96% and ground 185 aircraft due to coronavirus outbreak

Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced (23-Mar-2020) it will cut capacity by 96% in response to the coronavirus outbreak. SIA and SilkAir will ground 138 aircraft out of 147 and Scoot will suspend most of its network and ground 47 of its fleet of 49 aircraft. The carrier is implementing the following to mitigate the financial impacts of the outbreak:

  • Ongoing discussions with aircraft manufacturers to defer upcoming aircraft deliveries. If agreed, this will consequently defer payment for those aircraft deliveries;
  • Salary cuts for SIA Group's management with the company's directors also agreeing to a cut in their fees, and a voluntary no pay leave scheme up to certain management positions;
  • Unions have been engaged on additional cost cutting measures that are needed and more steps will be taken imminently;
  • SIA Group has drawn on its lines of credits to meet immediate cash flow requirements and is engaging in discussions with several financial institutions for its future funding requirements. [more - original PR]

Australia/New Zealand: New Zealand restricts domestic air travel between regions

New Zealand Government increased (23-Mar-2020) its coronavirus alert to "COVID-19 Alert Level 3 - Restrict" with "No discretionary domestic air travel between regions", effective 24-Mar-2020.
New Zealand will remain at "Alert Level 3" for 48 hours as it readies to move into 'Level 4 - Eliminate'. [more - original PR]

3. Middle East:

Emirates Airline suspends most passenger services due to coronavirus outbreak

Emirates Airline announced (22-Mar-2020) plans to temporarily suspend most passenger operations by 25-Mar-2020 due to travel restrictions globally as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

These suspensions do not affect cargo services, "which remain busy". The carrier stated that as long as borders remain open and there is demand, it will continue to operate passenger and cargo services to the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, USA and Canada.

Emirates Group chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum stated: "As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re open their borders, and travel confidence returns". Mr Al Maktoum added the carrier will "continue to watch the situation closely" and "as soon as things allow" reinstate its services. [more - original PR]

4. Europe:

Air Malta to operate 'lifeline schedule' to facilitate outbound travel for stranded passengers

Air Malta announced (19-Mar-2020) plans to operate a 'lifeline schedule' to facilitate outbound travel for stranded individuals to their home countries and ensure essential connectivity for critical medical cases apart from medical equipment and medicines to the Maltese islands. The airline will introduce a new schedule operating to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Vienna, subject to demand.
The routes will be operated on a point-to-point basis available for customers who can prove that they are travelling back to their home country in the Schengen area and the UK either by producing a valid passport or residents' card. [more - original PR]

5. North America:

Southwest Airlines to reduce capacity by 20%, suspend all international service

Southwest Airlines announced (20-Mar-2020) it will reduce capacity by at least 20% from 14-Apr-2020 to 05-Jun-2020, due to the negative effects of coronavirus on travel demand. The carrier will also suspend service to all international destinations by 22-Mar-2020, due to government travel restrictions and guidance from the US government.
The airline noted it hopes to resume normal international service by 04-May-2020, subject to change. Additionally, Southwest has cancelled approximately 1000 of its nearly 4000 daily services from 22-Mar-2020 until 14-Apr-2020. [more - original PR]

6. Latin America:

ABEAR signs agreement for emergency refund rules for carriers

ABEAR signed (21-Mar-2020) an agreement with Brazil's Federal Prosecution Service, the National Consumer Secretariat and the Ministry of Justice to adjust the consumer rights during the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement establishes rules for cancellations, refunds and rebooking of tickets. [more - original PR]

7. Africa

SAA suspends all international operations until 31-May-2020

South African Airways (SAA) announced (20-Mar-2020) the suspension of all international operations until 31-May-2020, following a travel ban issued by the South African government that stipulated: "Disembarkation of foreign nationals from the high-risk countries [for coronavirus] is suspended on airports upon arrival".

However, the regulations also stated embarkation and disembarkation would be allowed under the following circumstances:

  • Disembarkation of returning South African citizens and permanent residents;
  • Embarkation of departing foreign nationals and disembarkation of a declared medical emergency;
  • Foreign nationals who are approved by port health services;
  • Crew from high risk countries, provided they are subject to medical screening and quarantined for 21 days upon landing". [more - original PR]

The above is a selection of more than 150 news updates from today's CAPA Membership coverage specifically on COVID-19, which also covers traffic data, route and frequency announcements, government advisories and more. For more information about CAPA Membership, please click here.

Additional Analysis (please click on the headings to go to the full story)

Like almost every airline around the globe, Qantas has been blindsided by the freight train that is the Covid-19 outbreak.

The abruptness of the airline's change in outlook has been dramatic. A few months ago Qantas was comfortably on track and focusing on new aircraft orders; on 20-Feb-2020 its share price rose almost AUD1.00 to AUD6.67 following its 1H results announcement and its forward looking plans to combat the threat; by 19-Mar-2020 that price had slumped to AUD2.14.

Now the airline is announcing previously implausible measures as it cuts back its network, fleet and workforce.

The carrier has acted swiftly and has not been afraid to make drastic moves - a hallmark of the current management in everything from crisis management to labour relations.

International operations will be suspended completely, with domestic capacity cut by 60%. About 150 aircraft will be grounded, and two thirds of the carrier's 30,000 employees will be stood down.

Tough measures, but in the circumstances - entirely judicious.

As the number of global COVID -19 coronavirus cases continues to grow, world airline capacity declines are accelerating weekly.

Asia Pacific has been hardest hit, although the rate of seat decline has slowed, mainly reflecting a flattening of the curve of COVID-19 cases in China. By contrast, the rate of fall in Europe, Middle East and Africa is accelerating. North America is relatively stable so far, while Latin America capacity is still growing (but growth has slowed).

Current OAG schedules data (combined with seat configuration data from the CAPA Fleet Database) show a year-on-year fall in global seat capacity of -14.7% for the week of 16-Mar-2020 - the fastest drop so far this year. They also project that the decline will narrow to -4.0% by the end of Apr-2020.

However, these statistics inevitably lag reality, and will do so until forward looking schedules data fully reflect recent (and still evolving) airline plans to shrink further. Moreover, demand is falling faster than capacity.

World Health organisation data on COVID -19 cases are likely to remain the best (and only) lead indicator for aviation while the current crisis lasts.

COVID19: Latin American airlines now dramatically cut capacity

The intensity of the COVID-19 coronavirus has upended the global airline industry, and now airlines in Latin America are starting to face the severity of the virus' rapid spread.

Airlines operating in the region are taking action that mirrors those of operators across the world, including slashing capacity to unheard-of levels. Copa is warning of the most dramatic actions, including the possibility of a complete temporary shutdown of operations in Apr-2020.

In South America, Brazil has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and demand appears to have diminished quickly in the country's domestic market. Its three largest airlines - GOL, LATAM Airlines Brazil and Azul - are instituting dramatic capacity reductions starting immediately. Those cuts are continuing over the next couple of months until there is more clarity around when the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic will diminish.

The above is a selection of in-depth insights on the latest developments in the aviation and travel industry related to the COVID-19 outbreak. CAPA Membership includes a range of reports featuring accurate data and independent commentary from our global team of analysts, who offer a unique perspective and actionable insights to help improve decision making. For more information about CAPA Membership, please click here.

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