Transport and travel firms take drastic measures as demand plummets

Transport and travel companies are slashing services amid the dire financial impact of the coronavirus.

Airlines are grounding most of their flights in the coming days and warning that some carriers may collapse without billions of pounds of government support.

Tui, the UK’s biggest travel company, has suspended “the vast majority” of its holidays, while P&O Cruises and Cunard have cancelled all cruises until April 11.

There is also growing speculation that Britain’s train companies have asked the Government to take drastic measures to help them survive the sharp fall in demand.

Airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian have decimated their flight schedules due to travel restrictions around the world and plummeting passenger numbers.

EasyJet warned there is “no guarantee” that European airlines will “survive what could be a long-term travel freeze and the risks of a slow recovery”.

For April and May, Ryanair is cutting its capacity by up to 80% while British Airways’ parent company IAG said it will reduce capacity by at least 75%.

Ryanair added that “a full grounding of the fleet cannot be ruled out”.

Virgin Atlantic, which will stop using up to 85% of its aircraft, told staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave, with the cost spread across six months of their salary.

An airline spokesman said: “The aviation industry is facing unprecedented pressure. We are appealing to the Government for clear, decisive and unwavering support.

“Our industry needs emergency credit facilities to a value of £5 billion to £7.5 billion, to bolster confidence and to prevent credit card processors from withholding customer payments.”

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, has warned that “the threat to the survival of some businesses is real”, adding that airlines and package holiday firms will need to take “very difficult actions” to avoid running out of cash.

Travel company Tui said it has suspended “the vast majority of all travel operations until further notice”.

This includes package holidays, cruises and hotels.

P&O Cruises said all ships are being brought back to Southampton and the firm will “monitor the situation over the coming weeks”.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria are also returning to Southampton, while its other liner, Queen Elizabeth, is in Australia and has had her itineraries suspended.

There has also been a drop in demand for rail travel, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealing that the number of train passengers fell by a fifth over the last week.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The railways have definitely seen a big drop-off … last week by about 18%-20% in the number of passengers, and we’re working with them closely.”

It has been reported that train operators have asked the Government to renegotiate their contracts to reduce payments and cut timetables.

A spokesman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said train companies “are regularly in discussions with the Government about a range of things that affect the railway”.

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