Could Major Airlines Go Bankrupt? Analyst Warns Urgent Action Is Needed As Bookings Drop Due To Coronavirus

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Most major global airlines could go bankrupt in the coming months as bookings drop due to coronavirus concerns, an Australia-based consultancy warned Monday.

"Coordinated government and industry action is needed — now — if catastrophe is to be avoided," the CAPA Centre for Aviation said. "Cash reserves are running down quickly as fleets are grounded, and what flights there are operate much less than half full."

Major airlines have had to cut flights and employees, as the coronavirus takes its toll on the industry. Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced Monday that it would ground most of its fleet over the next seven to 10 days. United Airlines also announced that it is cutting 50% of its flying capacity in April and May. In addition, American Airlines will suspend 75% of its international long-haul flights.

On Friday, Delta Air Lines announced a capacity reduction of 40%within the next few months. The company will also be cutting all flights to Europe for the next 30 days. 

U.S.-based airlines are seeking more than $50 billion in assistance from Washington amid the crisis. The Trump administration is mulling a financial package that would help airlines, cruise lines and other parts of the private sector. Treasury Steven Mnuchin has claimed that this is not a “bailout” for the travel industry.

"I want to be clear, this is not bailouts, we are not looking for bailouts,” Mnuchin told lawmakers Wednesday. “There may be specific industries that are highly impacted by travel that have issues with lending.”

“I would assume the airlines would be on the top of the list," he continued.

U.S.-based airlines employ roughly 750,000 people.

There are currently over 3,800 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with the death toll topping 70. More than 6,500 people worldwide have been killed by the virus.

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