Does air travel still have a future?

The airline industry has been hard hit in the coronavirus crisis. People have stopped flying, leaving airlines and aircraft manufacturers fighting for survival. Governments in many countries are now considering whether to bail out the industry. Commentators look at what's at stake in terms of jobs, passenger rights and climate protection.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Do not resuscitate

Governments should simply let industries that are harmful to the environment fail, demands journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot in The Guardian:

“Do Not Resuscitate. This tag should be attached to the oil, airline and car industries. Governments should provide financial support to company workers while refashioning the economy to provide new jobs in different sectors. They should prop up only those sectors that will help secure the survival of humanity and the rest of the living world. They should either buy up the dirty industries and turn them towards clean technologies, or do what they often call for but never really want: let the market decide. In other words, allow these companies to fail.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

State involvement a chance for climate protection

The Frankfurter Rundschau dismisses concerns about the German state holding a stake in Lufthansa:

“It's true that the German government's target of a 25 percent share in the airline would partially deprive the executive board of its power. A blocking minority could be used to hinder important strategic decisions. In addition, the employees together with the representatives of the German government would have a majority on the supervisory board. This would force CEO Carsten Spohr's management team to make new compromises - oriented towards jobs. ... This can give a boost to long-term strategies instead of short-term big-bang effects and high profits - for example the expansion of fleets by adding fuel-efficient aircraft, which saves fuel costs. This can help to advance climate protection.”

Lapin Kansa (FI) /

Lapland depends on air traffic

The Finnish state has a duty to get Finnair through the crisis, Lapin Kansa stresses, pointing to Finland's sparsely populated areas:

“The situation in Lapland is a cause for concern. The north is far away and accessibility is crucial for tourism here. This means the province is completely dependent on air connections, which were set up with great effort before the epidemic. Now everything is in danger of collapsing - not just the flight connections. Tourism companies are also struggling to survive. Sooner or later the crisis will be over and the desire to travel will return. The less damage the epidemic causes, the faster the return to normality will be.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Save Europe's airline industry

La Vanguardia calls on the EU to intervene quickly and judiciously:

“The situation could mean a collapse of 82.4 billion euros in revenue for European airlines this year and put 6.7 million jobs at risk. ... In the US the Trump administration has passed a bailout package that will help the airlines by issuing direct bonds from the national budget in exchange for shares. The EU should react with the same speediness if it doesn't want its airline industry to be destroyed. In any case, its plan must be balanced and fair in terms of the aid that the airlines receive.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Right to travel well is under threat

Saving the airline industry is also in the interest of passengers, Laura Vol of the passenger rights company Air Indemnité points out in Les Echos:

“Particularly under threat is the right for all to travel (well). Without a strong solidarity network the options open to passengers will certainly deteriorate to the point that travel conditions will no longer be acceptable for anyone. Many companies will disappear and ticket prices are likely to soar. ... When airlines go bankrupt, passengers almost never have the option of being reimbursed. ... The European Commission has received a request to create a passenger fund. While the details of how it is to be financed are still being worked out, it should be welcomed in principle. By helping companies to avoid financial difficulties it will give passengers certain guarantees - and peace of mind.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Bailout only if state has a say

The state should only save airlines like Lufthansa if it can have a say in management, Die Presse demands:

“Aviation will not return to its former glory for a long time to come. So if they receive too much aid there's a risk that unsustainable overcapacities will be maintained using taxpayers' money. In this respect, the plan of the German government to try to save with equity - cash against shares - is a step in the right direction. Provided it really involves the state acquiring voting shares. ... Austria should also follow this policy. ... It's the only one that respects the precepts of the market. And the only one that guarantees that if the company recovers and the share price rises, taxpayers will not be left with the bill for the whole undertaking.” (PL) /

An untapped, post-crisis market

Airlines that survive the crisis can expect to do excellent business, comments:

“The air travel industry is currently fighting for survival. Those companies that manage to receive more money and survive today will be free to conquer an almost untapped market. In their case, the money invested will likely pay off. We can also see this in the fact that the share prices of Lufthansa and Air France-KLM are already rising. Therefore it would be a very good thing if the Polish airline Lot were also among the survivors.”