Emirates will axe charges for changing flight bookings as the Gulf carrier bids to reassure customers weighing travel plans against coronavirus uncertainty.
Aviation continued to grapple with the Covid-19 outbreak on Wednesday with airline Lufthansa and aircraft manufacturer Airbus amongst those pondering cuts as the crisis continued.
Airline Emirates told Irish travel agents that it would not charge passengers change or ticket reissue fees on flights booked from Thursday March 5th to the last day of the month.
The Dubai-based airline’s move means that if anyone who books flights during that time subsequently changes the travel date the airline will not charge a change fee or for reissuing the ticket.
Emirates flies twice a day between Dublin and Dubai, through where it connects many Irish passengers to destinations in Asia, including countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, where Covid-19 has hit hardest.
Emirates recently offered staff around the world voluntary unpaid leave as it cut services to destinations that have borne the outbreak’s brunt.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa which flies between the Republic and Germany said it would ground about 150 craft as it cut back in the face of the outbreak's advance.
The German group, owner of Swiss, Brussels and Austrian Airlines, which has 770 craft, had already flagged that it would cut long- and short-haul services by 25 per cent.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus confirmed that it was reviewing its target to deliver 880 aircraft this year in light of falling demand for air travel.
Some industry analysts are now predicting that demand is down almost 3 per cent across the world.
Irish giant Ryanair said that it would cut flights to and from Italy, where the European outbreak is at its worst, by 25 per cent from March 17th to April 8th.
However the group’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, told a Brussels trade conference that he expected fear of flying to abate.
“The immediate short-term panic about travelling will erode very rapidly. It will erode over the next two or three weeks,” he said.
“Will families continue to travel on their Easter school break? Yes, they will unless there is some unforeseen events.”
Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, owner of Aer Lingus and British Airways, said the situation should stabilise in a matter of weeks.
Nevertheless, observers believe that weaker airlines could fail as they struggle to balance cutting back with remaining ready to resume services once normality returns. – Additional reporting: Financial Times, Reuters