Today’s news in brief:
The end of Project Sunrise?
For years, Qantas has dreamed of flying non-stop from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York - the longest flights in the world.
That dream is now in serious doubt, following yesterday’s announcement that ‘Project Sunrise’ will be put on hold as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce told reporters: “Very clearly the Qantas of 2021 and 2022 will not be the Qantas of 2019. We’re looking at the scope, the scale of our businesses going forward. The time [for Sunrise] is not right now given the impact that Covid-19 has had on world travel. We certainly won't be ordering aircraft for that this year.”
The news will be a big blow for Airbus, which won a contract to build specially modified A350-1000 planes capable of flying the ultra-long missions.
Qantas had already trialled its Sunrise project, with ‘dry-run’ flights carried out last year to collect data on crew and passenger wellbeing.
Leave without pay for Vistara’s top team
Vistara’s senior staff are to take leave without pay for up to four days in both May and June, as part of the airline’s cost-cutting measures.
A spokesman said: “With the latest lockdown extension until May 17, 2020, our operations continue to be suspended until the date, prolonging the period of no-revenues as well.
“Vistara is making every effort to save jobs of more than 4,000 of its people while conserving cash and pursuing to reduce operational expenditures, which includes staff costs.”
The number of no-pay days will depend on the individual’s employment grade, with the most senior employees taking the full four days per month.
Pilots are also being hit, as their base monthly flying allowance has been reduced to 20 hours for May and June.
“This decision does not impact 70 per cent of Vistara staff including cabin crew, other frontline staff and junior corporate office employees,” the Vistara spokesperson added.
No social distancing onboard says IATA
IATA, the industry body representing global airlines, has (unsurprisingly) rejected plans to keep middle middle seats free when flying restarts.
Leaving seats unoccupied would limit the number of tickets airlines could sell on a given flight and would result in “dramatic cost increases to air travel” according to IATA.
The group’s director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures—such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew—to add extra layers of protection.
“We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit.”
IATA supports other measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus including deep cabin cleaning, temperature screening of passengers and limiting human interaction onboard.
It claims fares would need to rise between 43 per cent and 54 per cent if airlines have fewer seats to sell.