The global aviation network system is turning into a frantic game of musical chairs.
Every player is orbiting over its landing site. The music stops, the there’s a mad dash for somewhere to park.
At any given time — pre-coronavirus era — there were usually as many as 20,000 planes swirling around the planet at altitude. The system isn’t designed for that amount of planes to be anywhere else apart from in the air — the only place they generate revenue.
Parking at airports is also pricey. Major European hubs can charge in the region of $285 an hour.
Earlier this month, the music stopped abruptly with population lockdowns dominoing across the world. The whine of airplane engines was rapidly muted into an eerie silence.
Some airlines are operating just a skeleton service, and the massive reduction of transatlantic flights in mid-March has kick-started a chain reaction of airplane groundings.
Delta Air Lines has instigated a 70% system-wide pullback, parking at least half of its fleet — more than 600 aircraft. “We also will be accelerating retirements of older aircraft like our MD-88/90s and some of our 767s,” the airline’s chief, Ed Bastian, said in a memo to Delta employees.
Australia’s Qantas is temporarily grounding 150 airplanes, a mix of A380s, 747s and B787-9s. The carrier says discussions are progressing with airports and the government about parking for these aircraft.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce noted that “efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”