Airline Losses Could Top $100 Billion As Coronavirus Disrupts Travel

International Air Transport Association forecast says airlines this year stand to lose between $63 billion and $113 billion this year.

Airline Losses Could Top $100 Billion As Coronavirus Disrupts Travel
Hassan Ammar / AP

The airline industry is fearing major business losses due to travelers' fears over the coronavirus. Some analysts liken the potential fallout to the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

On Thursday, the International Air Transport Association forecast that airlines this year stand to lose at least $63 billion as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The group said losses could top out at $113 billion

Last month, the group said airlines serving travel destinations to- and from-China faced losses of $29 billion alone. China has endured the most world's most severe coronavirus impacts, with Johns Hopkins reporting more than 80,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths. The virus has since spread to more than 80 countries.

Scott Solombrino is executive director and CEO of the Global Business Travel Association. He said the coronavirus is having devastating impacts across the travel industry.

He said, “The last time we’ve seen anything close to this was post-9/11. If there's nobody traveling on planes, there's nobody staying in hotels, if no one's staying in hotels, no one's going to restaurants, no one's using taxi cabs, Ubers, chauffeured cars or anything else, everything kind of stops, and that's the problem.” 

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met with airline executives at the White House. There, American Airlines chairman Doug Parker told them the industry is focused on safeguarding passengers' health.

Parker said, “Certainly, the industry wants to do everything that we can to keep Americans safe and certainly our employees and our customers. We’ve stepped up our efforts to make sure the airplanes are clean and disinfected and we work very closely with the CDC and I think that’s gone very, very well. So we’ve got the proper protocols in place whenever there is a suspected illness.”

But also Wednesday, United Airlines announced it was reducing its number of international flights by 20 percent and domestic flights by 10 percent. It imposed a company hiring freeze and said more flights may be canceled in coming months.