ATHENS – With almost all air traffic shut down during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Aegean Airlines – which won’t give refunds for canceled flights – said it needs some kind of aid to return to profitability.
Citing the crisis, the European Union is waiving rules generally barring state aid to vital companies, Board Chairman Eftychios Vassilakis told investors in a conference call that, “You cannot afford to be one of the very few airlines in Europe that have not been helped.”
That was in apparent reference to the issue of potential government help but he wouldn’t spell it out exactly that way while he said Greece’s largest carrier will in 2020 have its worst year since being founded in 1999.
EU law requires airlines to give passengers refund for canceled flights but Aegean is issuing only vouchers so far for future possible flights with no time limit yet set nor what would happen if the flights weren’t taken.
Aegean, a member of the Star Alliance airline group, suspended international flights on March 26 but will restart flights to some European destinations by the end of May.
Aegean, which flew a record 15 million passengers last year, expects to increase operations to around 50% by September from 25% in July, under a best-case scenario, he said, according to a report by the news agency Reuters..
Revenue in the first quarter, which started strong but suffered from a “disastrous” March, will be down 15% to around 145 million euros ($158.52 million,), leading to a pretax loss of about 80 million ($87.47 million) said a report by Kathimerini.
Vassilakis said that increasing operations to about 75%-80% could be possible next year, and, if achieved, would be a high enough level of activity to allow Aegean to compete in Europe but it wasn’t explained what would happen if no state aid is given.
Coming out of a lockdown to gradually resume domestic and some international service, the company said it would have strict hygiene protocols and that all new tickets issued through June 15 – regardless of the travel date – will have the benefit of the Flex fare category, meaning passengers can change their tickets without charge.
Passengers must wear masks and can bring only one personal item into the cabin with them. The last three rows of seats will be left vacant in case they are needed to isolate a passenger displaying possible symptoms of COVID-19 and aircraft will be disinfected.
in the event that a passenger displaying possible symptoms of Covid-19 needs to be isolated, while protocols have been introduced for cleaning and disinfecting aircraft.
Aegean has already resumed flights to mainland destinations and Crete, with the rest of the islands to follow, before a gradual reopening to European destinations, starting with Munich, Frankfurt, Geneva and Zurich. Service to and from Brussels, which was not included in the flight ban because it’s the home of the EU, will be increased.