Boeing cuts, Heathrow loses to Paris, and testing remains key
October 28 2020 06:08 PM
Alex Macheras
Alex Macheras

By Alex Macheras

Boeing has warned it would cut the jobs of 30,000 workers after another quarter of heavy losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the grounding of the 737 MAX.
The US manufacturer said it expected to have a workforce of 130,000 by the end of 2021, down from 160,000 before the pandemic.

The firm posted a loss of $466m for the three months to 30 September, its fourth straight quarterly decline.

However, Boeing reaffirmed that US deliveries of the 737 MAX would resume before the end of the year.

“The deep impacts of Covid-19 on the commercial aviation market and our business are reflected in lower revenue, earnings and cash flow compared to this time last year,” said David Calhoun, chief executive, in a memo to employees.

“As we align to market realities, our business units and functions are carefully making staffing decisions to prioritise natural attrition and stability in order to limit the impact on our people and our company.”

American Airlines told investors this month that it had deferred 18 MAX deliveries for two years. Boeing reported 983 orders this year in which the customer either cancelled or deferred – most 737 MAX jets.

Shares of Boeing rose 0.6% in premarket trading on Wednesday, after the aerospace giant swung to a narrower-than-expected third-quarter adjusted loss, while revenue fell more than forecast.

Elsewhere, Heathrow was overtaken as Europe's busiest airport for the first time by Paris Charles de Gaulle amid the ongoing pandemic. Some 19mn passengers used Heathrow in the first nine months of the year, versus 19.3mn who used the airport in the French capital. Both Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt were "close behind".

Heathrow recognised that all three rivals had adopted testing regimes as a way of people reducing or avoiding quarantine. Heathrow’s CEO slammed Britain of being "too slow to embrace passenger testing" and was "falling behind".

"Already in France and Germany, even Canada and Ireland have moved to testing and this is the way to make sure we can protect jobs in the UK as well as protecting people from coronavirus," Mr Holland Kaye told UK media.

"The government really need to get on and make this happen before the beginning of December if we are going to save people's jobs."

Testing remains one of the few strategic options available to the aviation sector, but it’s not something Britain has adopted. With long quarantine periods for all simply unsustainable for the long-term (and unthinkable for business travel) Germany, France, Iceland, Thailand, Ukraine, Finland and several other countries are testing passengers on arrival, requiring them to quarantine only for the time it takes to receive a negative test result by text. Their respective health authorities recognise there will be some asymptomatic cases that slip through the net, “but that’s with any testing regime” a minister tells me, from Helsinki.

South Korea have been testing passenger arrivals since March. Japan and Hong Kong since April. Austria since May.

But the world has already moved on from testing on arrival, and now pre-flight testing is under way in some countries.

Pre-flight testing in Italy involve two flights per day between Rome and Milan Linate, operated by Alitalia, where only passengers who have undergone a rapid antigen test prior to departure are permitted to fly.

Fiumicino was one of the first airports in Italy to set up an onsite testing centre. Passengers flying from Rome Fiumicino airport are advised to arrive at least an hour and a half before their flight. They’re instructed to go directly from the departures area to a testing centre in Terminal 3 where they will be given a nasal swab that can reveal within 30 minutes whether or not they have the coronavirus Covid-19. They must wait in the testing centre for the results: if it's negative they can proceed to the gate; if it's positive they'll be put in isolation, given a molecular (PCR) swab test to confirm the result and if necessary, instructed on quarantine procedures.

Antigen tests look for pieces of proteins that make up the Sars- CoV-2 virus to determine if the person has an active infection. In most cases, a nasal or throat swab is taken by a healthcare provider and tested. A positive antigen test means that the person being tested has an active Covid-19 infection. It can be used to quickly determine who has an active infection, can help identify people who are contagious to others, and is a less expensive test than PCR.

Heathrow’s CEO Mr Holland-Kaye said the taskforce is expected to report early in November and the calls he has been part of were "very encouraging". "We could be up and running for the whole of the UK by the end of November (with passenger testing)," he said, adding that – as well as testing arrivals – he wanted to trial testing departures, firstly on the busy London-New York route. "We need action from the government to protect millions of jobs in this country and reopening our borders safely through testing is the way to do it."


Last updated: October 28 2020 07:18 PM


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