LOT Polish Airlines has announced it will be suspending all flights from both Poland and Hungary as of tomorrow for a period of 10 days. The move comes as fears surrounding the spread of COVID-19 in Europe worsen by the day.
This morning, LOT Polish Airlines became the first major airline to cancel all its flights as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The decision to halt all international air travel was made by the Polish government as a proactive measure to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which the World Health Organization recently stated is now centered in Europe.
How will this affect passengers?
Needless to say, the decision to halt all flights out of both Poland and Hungary will have huge ramifications for both passengers and businesses. Currently, LOT Polish Airlines has stated it will keep passengers informed of any upcoming changes.
Passengers due to fly today are advised to call LOT Polish Airlines for immediate information regarding the cancellation of their flights, although the airline has warned that their call center will likely be overwhelmed as it anticipates a massive increase in customer queries.
LOT forced to take action
While LOT Polish Airlines announced the cancellation of all upcoming flights itself, the decision was largely removed from the airline’s hands by actions at the state level. Donald Trump imposed restrictions on all air travel between the EU Schengen Area and the US on Wednesday. These travel restrictions came into place at midnight last night and will have already significantly cut LOT’s transatlantic capacity.
Meanwhile, the decision to restrict all air traffic coming in and out of Poland was made by the Polish government. As a result, LOT Polish Airlines had no choice but to suspend all services for the time being.
Although it will be a massive headache for LOT Polish Airlines, and will certainly cost a lot of money, we may well see other airlines across Europe following suit over the next few weeks.
2020 not going to plan
LOT Polish Airlines had big plans for the year ahead. However, the airline’s ambitions now appear to have been pushed severely off-track as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. LOT Polish Airlines’ parent company, Polish Aviation Group (PGL), started off the year with the acquisition of Condor, the last surviving remnant of British travel group and tour operator Thomas Cook, which collapsed in September last year.
The acquisition of Condor was a sign of LOT Polish Airlines’ intent to expand, and a sign that the airline was looking forward to a period of growth. Unfortunately, the Condor deal came just at the wrong time, coinciding pretty much exactly with the first stories of a new disease spreading in Wuhan.
Now, less than two months later, we find ourselves in uncharted territory, as countries have started blocking themselves off from the rest of the world in hopes of stemming the spread of COVID-19.