Boeing and other U.S. aviation companies are seeking billions of dollars in aid as they battle to survive a plunge in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while Airbus is pausing production at two sites to bolster health and safety measures.
The rapid spread of the virus across the world has battered airlines as governments have introduced travel restrictions and consumers have stopped making bookings, calling into question the survival of several companies.
To preserve cash, airlines are cutting flights, laying off staff, suspending dividends, selling planes and flying cargo on empty passenger jets.
“It’s now fair to call this the single biggest shock that global aviation has ever experienced,” Qantas Airways Ltd CEO Alan Joyce said in a memo to the airline’s 30,000 staff on Tuesday that was seen by Reuters.
Boeing Co on Monday said it was in talks with senior White House officials and congressional leaders about short-term assistance for the entire U.S. aviation sector.
U.S. airlines and cargo carriers have said they are seeking at least $58 billion in loans and grants along with additional tax changes, while airports are seeking $10 billion.
European airlines have also stepped up calls for emergency government aid. Passenger traffic across the region slumped by more than half on average last week, and the situation will worsen as borders closed, trade body Airports Council International Europe said.
Industry consultancy Tourism Economics forecast international travel will slump at least 10.5% this year, the biggest year-on-year drop.
Planemaker Airbus SE said on Tuesday it would pause production and assembly at its French and Spanish sites for the next four days to put in place strict health and safety provisions.
British infrastructure and aviation group Stobart said it likely needed additional liquidity because of the disruption to its business, especially at London Southend Airport.
Airbus shares were down more than 7% at 0930 GMT after heavy losses on Monday. Boeing shares closed down 24% on Monday.
In Asia, Qantas, which is looking to raise a few hundred million dollars by refinancing some aircraft, said on Tuesday it planned to cut international capacity by 90% and domestic capacity by 60% until at least the end of May.
“Our goal is to protect as many jobs as possible and to make sure we remain strong enough to ride this out,” Joyce told staff in the memo seen by Reuters.
The only bright spot for airlines is the cargo market, where rates are surging as a result of the loss of capacity in the belly of passenger aircraft as those flights are cut. Airlines are flying some planes without passengers to transport cargo due to high demand.