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Air France’s CEO speaks about the pick up in flight traffic

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Let’s be honest.  Trying to predict when air travel will recover is a mug’s game at the moment.

Even if you can predict flight volumes, it doesn’t help predict when you can travel.  No-one knows what different countries will put in place about quarantine restrictions, vaccination certificates etc.  In Europe, President Macron is pushing for EU borders to remain closed until the end of September which would have a devastating effect on places which rely heavily on North American and Asian visitors.

The UK, for clarity, is still part of the single travel area until 30th December.  If Europe does close its doors until the end of September, it does not stop UK residents flying to the continent.

For what it’s worth, however, Ben Smith, the CEO of Air France KLM, had his thoughts published in La Tribune.  These comments are taken from an internal video call to Air France KLM pilots.

Smith is currently predicting that he will operate:

  • June – 20% of usual capacity
  • July – 40% of usual capacity
  • August – 60% of usual capacity
  • September to December – 75% of usual capacity

He is expecting no return to 2019 capacity levels until 2022.

‘Capacity’ in this case refers to seat kilometres flown, not aircraft movements.  Restoring long-haul flights is therefore key to hitting these targets.

Air France KLM is currently losing €25 million per day.  Luckily for Smith, President Macron has promised to shower him with all the money he needs – the issue is that Smith doesn’t want it if it means nationalisation.  His preference is for a 90% Government guarantee for a bank-led bailout.  This means that, for example, private sector losses on a €1 billion loan would be limited to just €100 million in the worst case scenario.

How to earn Flying Blue miles from UK credit cards

How to earn Flying Blue miles from UK credit cards (June 2024)

Air France and KLM do not have a UK Flying Blue credit card.  However, you can earn Flying Blue miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.

These cards earn Membership Rewards points:

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Flying Blue miles which is an attractive rate.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Flying Blue mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.

Comments (80)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • SammyJ says:

    TAP have also been one of the worst offenders in the refund refusal scandal. Not only are they refusing cash refunds, they’re insisting their vouchers are used to book before 30th April for travel before the end of this year.

    • Phillip says:


      And that type of behaviour does not earn my return custom no matter how cheap their fares are!

      • J says:

        Only ever used TAP for short haul economy but I liked them a lot – seem to remember the wine was decent too 🙂 I don’t think any airline has behaved well at the moment, I’m relying on a charge back because Lufthansa are not currently processing refunds but regrettably I know I’ll be using LH in the future.

        • xcalx says:

          I’ve had 3 separate refunds within a week of phoning, one cash one avios and one cash and avios. Well done Iberia.

      • Lady London says:

        Even in peacetime I saw somewhere that TAP simply doesn’t deal with EC261 claims.

    • Mikeact says:

      My youngest son and girlfriend have just booked Cape Town @ £375 each….down the back, and including a couple of days stopover in Lisbon.

  • lei says:

    TAP to Cancun biz deal is already out there, 800+euro from multiple eu countries like paris/madrid to cancun

  • riku2 says:

    [ The UK is still part of the single travel area until 30th December. If Europe does close its doors until the end of September, it does not stop UK residents flying to the continent ]
    What is this “single travel area” ? It is not the schengen zone since the UK is not part of schengen. And there is no concept of “europe” closing its doors.The entry requirements (even of schengen zone countries) are decided by the member states themselves and currently many schengen zone countries are blocking entry even from their neighbours, let alone from the UK. The EU commission can only offer recommendations to member states – the EU commission has a president, not a king!

    • Patrick C says:

      Here in this case I think Macron’s idea is to limit travel to EU citizens only, which the UK would be part of as per the transition treaty until end of the year (at least).
      Now all of these ideas are quite difficult to follow through on in practise, but the French president has a point in that intercontinental travel will have to be restricted for a while in some shape or form.
      If intra EU travel is relatively free, it may actually be positive for the tourism industry as many people flying to far flung places would vacation closer to home. The effective spending may not be that different from US / Asian tourists. The main losers would more likely be luxury retailers as the private jet clientele may be limited.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Why does limiting intercontinental flights make sense to the EU especially France who have one of the highest absolute and per 1m capita confirmed infection rates in the world. The number of actual cases is a many times multiple of the confirmed so if 20-30% of your population has either had it or has it what’s the use in keeping other people out? The UK has stopped flights for that exact reason it’s a pointless exercise in managing a virus that’s already prevalent in society.

        I can understand why countries with extremely low infection rates might want to keep people out or quarantine them when they enter. I really do wonder if they can keep it up for 2-3 years though.

        • Kev 85 says:

          “ I really do wonder if they can keep it up for 2-3 years though.”

          That depends on the % of the economy which is reliant on tourism.

          Places like the Maldives where tourism is over 1/3 of GDP. Probably not.

          South Korea, where tourism accounts for less than 5% of GDP and the country is one of the most densely populated in the world. Probably more likely.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Tourism? I’m talking about all the international trade and business travel that will be stifled.

            You can conference call but developing new products etc where you need hands on interaction with the tooling/production lines and processes will be hampered if you need to ship every sample to get the ok before production starts.

          • Kev 85 says:

            Good point but is there any concrete evidence that restrictions will need to stay in place for 2-3 years? Nobody knows either way.

          • meta says:

            @ Kev85 You only need to look at Emirates introducing testing at the gate yesterday to see how this can be managed. They will also issue a covid-19 free certificate if you need one to enter certain country. Czech tourist agencies are also looking at implementing testing as part of packages, so that their clients don’t have to go into quarantine. Czech government is also looking at signing agreements with countries that will allow this. Lots of countries depend heavily on tourism and also business travel so this is not sustainable in the long run.

          • Rob says:

            Snag with testing is this. What happens if you fly to, say, South Africa OK but are also tested on the way home and fail? The airline will block you for 2 weeks.

          • Harry T says:

            COVID-19 tests have poor sensitivity and specificity. Many patients with COVID-19 test negative on one or two swans before finally testing positive.

          • meta says:

            @ Rob I believe the certificate would be valid for 14 days, so you won’t be tested on the way back. The snag is that you won’t be going away for more than certain time period.

            @ Harry T yes, the tests are unreliable, but if a certain country accepts it then that won’t stop people traveling and countries attracting people. In other words, it won’t be scientific issue, but a socio-political one.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            @meta this certificate is then worthless as you can pick it up and not test positive while you fly and then actually spread it around on your holiday you could then pick it up at any point during your trip and spread it around when you re-enter the UK.

            Exactly why the UK thinks banning international travellers is useless in the fight against this.

          • meta says:

            @ TG Loyalty Depends on how you look at it, it is not entirely useless. It would be valid for that one trip. You get tested on the way to the destination and it is valid for 14 days. So you can leave the country within 14 days and the certificate is still valid for you to fly back. If that country is willing to take that risk then that’s a political decision. Emirates has started doing it already, so obviously it seems acceptable to some countries.

            UK does not screen passengers and I can’t see that changing. For UK it wouldn’t matter.

            P.S. Another suggestion, I’ve seen floating around from governments is to allow passengers who underwent 14-day supervised self-isolation or quarantine in their home country just before the trip. Although that does also have risk as you could catch it on the way to / at the airport.

          • Lady London says:

            Testing at the gate? When @Harry T, a medic, says it’s not very good and both types of existing test can have 4-day lags on both positive result and negative?

            So will we have health theatre as well as security theatre now every time we catch s plane? Who’s that protecting?

    • Ian says:

      Don’t forget that France has closed its borders to ALL foreign nationals except for limited categories such as health workers. Those eligible to travel have to complete an “attestation” form available in French and English on the French Embassy website. I was due to join my (French) wife in Paris next week but I am unable to do so and Macron shows no inclination to change this yet.

      • meta says:

        You can still go if your main residence is in France or you have a residence permit.

      • Lady London says:

        I believe urgent family reasons also qualify.

        Not sure why you’d want to travel to be in Paris right now though. The French haven’t got CV under control and socially Paris is a pressure point with a lot of resistance to accepting being locked down amongst sections of society that are concentrated there boiling up in confinement ahead of what could be a long hot summer.

        • Kev 85 says:

          “ Not sure why you’d want to travel to be in Paris right now though.”

          What if you’ve got a place in the sun there?

          • Lady London says:

            If it’s not your permanent residence then there is no way the French currently will admit you.

    • Mick says:

      I’d wagger that’s a remainer! Haha

  • Chris says:

    Re the Conde Nast promo. I wasn’t asked for anything other than DD details on sign up. Does anyone know if they take the £1 by DD and then I need to cancel? If so, when should I expect that to come out? Thanks

    • mark2 says:

      I always wait for the first issue to arrive before cancelling DD.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, the £1 is taken from the DD. I did a similar offer last year. This is handy because when you see the £1 on your statement you know the DD is in place and you can quickly cancel it via online banking.

      If I was CN I wouldn’t be rushing to set up the DD. I would wait 6 weeks and then do it, hoping you might forget to cancel ….

  • Georgie says:

    Heathrow staff have been told that the business will take at least 4 years to recover to preCovid19 levels and that there’s already a massive staff consultation on the cards with legacy staff being particularly likely to be affected. Which we have took to mean everybody‘s pay will be slashed…..

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Interesting that their approach to a cut in air travel and therefore staffing levels required is to cut wages and not staff.

      There will be a lot of businesses using this as an opportunity to cut the more favourable benefits of “legacy” staff.

      • Aston100 says:

        Hopefully London Underground staff get impacted.

        • sayling says:


        • Liam says:

          How spiteful.

          • Aston100 says:

            Yes, they really are the worst, hiding behind their union anytime they need to answer for something.
            Spiteful is far too mild a word to describe those tfl personnel.

          • Capt Hammond says:

            Yeah, workers standing up for their employment rights through a trade union. How awful

    • Lady London says:

      ‘consultation’ never a good work in UK employment law. Seems generally honoured in the breach too.

      • Lady London says:

        i.e. usually means job losses have already been decided, can’t be changed and there is a ‘fake’ ‘consultation’ period of up to 90 days delay before the redundancies will inevitably be enacted. i.e. a ‘consultation’ period should pretty much be considered as the State getting you 90 days extra notice of what’s going to happen anyway

        For very low numbers of redundancies the ‘consultation’ period you get us only 30 days.

  • Joseph Heenan says:

    KLM, and presumably AirFrance, just email to say status extended for an extra year:

    Not sure some of the other details are well thought out, seems like little incentive in there to fly KLM this year, any status miles I earn this year are likely to be effectively lost/have no effect.

  • ChrisA says:

    O/T still some great prices from Oslo to CPT – quick look for Oct half-term reveals £1058 BA J rtn.

    • Rob says:

      Wow. The problem with ex-EU is a double risk factor since you need Norway to let you in without quarantine and South Africa, which has shut down its entire airspace for a few weeks.

      You’re back to the question of ‘would I want to fall ill in this country, knowing that the airline probably wouldn’t let me fly home and my travel insurance won’t cover me for CV so I’m on the hook for the local medical bills’.

      • Kev 85 says:

        Isn’t it just coronavirus related cancellation costs that the insurer wouldn’t pay?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          It’s a grey area until it’s tested or the FCO advice is lifted and insurance companies start releasing info on it.

          Rob’s view is that the known event clause means it’s not covered. My view is that lots of virus and diseases are known events in the countries you visit (local epidemics are more prevalent than you think) so therefore all medical cover is pretty useless, I don’t think that is the case.

          I also haven’t seen any evidence of epidemics (a pandemic is a global epidemic) being excluded either in the 3 insurance documents I’ve read.

        • Anna says:

          It will depend on individual insurers.

  • Spaghetti Town says:

    Case numbers are starting to tail off in the UK. I can see us restoring some flights at the end of next month.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      The UK hasn’t banned any flights it’s other countries that have closed their borders to us.

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        I’ll rephrase. I can see BA restoring more flights at the end of next month.

    • Anna says:

      It’s still going to be down to individual nations to decide if they will allow us in, as we are considered to be dealing with the pandemic pretty badly. The Cayman Islands, where I have been fortunate to holiday for the past few years, has closed its borders indefinitely and their PM has said he will let the tourist industry die a death rather than letting in any visitors from affected countries. Similarly, the Spanish authorities have said it’s likely to be September before UK nationals are allowed back.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Long way to go for everyone but considering deaths per 1m in the UK is c50% of Spain and Italy I don’t see how they are making the call the UK handled it badly.

        The curve since 50 deaths has been consistently lower than Spain too.

        • Kev 85 says:

          A better comparison would be South Korea.

          Not wildly different population sizes (50m vs 65m)
          South Korea is more densely populated
          Similar proportion of people living in one city (again, Seoul is more densely populated than London)

          South Korea deaths – around 300
          U.K. deaths- over 10,000

          I wonder what they’ve done differently? Oh right. They’ve tested and contained.

          • Kev 85 says:

            South Korea haven’t imposed a full lock down either so the economic impact has been lower too

          • Spaghetti Town says:

            They probably also didn’t have hundreds of flights a day arriving from Italy and Spain with no checks whatsoever on disembarking

          • Kev 85 says:

            “ They probably also didn’t have hundreds of flights a day arriving from Italy and Spain with no checks whatsoever on disembarking”

            Good point.

            Before anyone says we couldn’t restrict travel from EU countries or check people returning home, here’s a couple of examples:

            “On March 13, Denmark said it would temporarily close its borders to non-citizens, except residents.”


            “ Nationals and residents must acquire a certificate of health stating they are free from the new coronavirus within a maximum of 4 days before departure. They will also have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.”

        • Anna says:

          Who’s comparing with Spain and Italy? Germany is a better comparison or South Korea as mentioned below, or New Zealand. Spain has an extra motive for sticking two fingers up at us though as it has massive chips on its shoulder because Brexit/Gibraltar.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Germany is the one that I would seriously look at to see what they did differently. Is their health system that much better or is it something about the population density/living arrangements.

            I would assume German’s do as much Spain and Italy travel as the rest of us.

            Netherlands had a very light lockdown approach and deaths are very similar to UK/m capita. Sweden also highly criticised for its approach has a death rate c20% lower than the UKs.

            Direct comparisons are difficult not only because demographics and circumstances are different but because reporting of cases and measures isn’t standardised.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            I won’t bore you with a long explanation of the significance of Covid19 being a notifiable disease in the UK, and what this implies for statistical collection, but it is definitely fair to say that reporting is not standardised: in simplified form, in some countries if Covid19 is detected as being present around the time of death it will ALWAYS be registered as a cause of death. In others it will only be registered if it was the main cause … so for example an MI while being treated for Covid19 will be recorded as a cardiac death in some locations…

            For this reason the armchair medical statisticians criticising governments for failing to match the performance of others should be VERY careful about comparing deaths per infection and even total death rates in different countries. If you are only using something like Worldmeter’s statistics as if they are uniform and grading different countries’ response off how they seem to be doing there then you will draw some very misguided conclusions.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            @SS I completely agree. It’s crude at best but it’s all people have got to draw some sort of comparison including in our daily briefings.

            Why I asked earlier on what data are people using to decide who had a better or worse response right now. Because it’s not all directly comparable. It’s good to know where each country is in their curve as it should be consistent for them but not really on a global level.

            If the perfect response is ever decided upon and countries compared on how effective or not it was I’m sure it will be something that takes months if not years to happen.

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        Surely the prime minister of the cayman islands would be Boris Johnson, do you mean the premier of the cayman islands?

        • Mikeact says:

          I can never understand going back to the same place year on year…..the world/ each country has so much to offer, wherever you go.

          • Kev 85 says:

            Me too. I prefer to be adventurous and see different places, but everyone is different so each to their own.

          • Anna says:

            Duh, it’s not the only place we go, it’s our R n R spot!

          • Travel Strong says:

            I manage to eek out about 50 nights/year leisure travel. 10 of those will be at a favourite place that feels like a home from home (only warmer and more relaxed).
            Then I still have 40 remaining to go somewhere new.

            If however you are going for 1 break per year, I can’t imagine anything worse than going to the same ‘brits abroad’ Spanish resort or worse, Disney.

          • Doug M says:

            If you can only afford or find time for one holiday a year then repeat visits to somewhere you’re happy and content makes sense. Exploring new places is a risk when it’s all you have for a full year.

          • Kev 85 says:

            “ Exploring new places is a risk when it’s all you have for a full year.”

            Just do a bit of research. I’ve yet to go somewhere I didn’t like.

          • Sussex bantam says:

            Disney. You’re wrong. Next.

          • Kev 85 says:

            “ Disney. You’re wrong. Next.”

            Every year though?

        • Anna says:

          Yes but most people don’t realise the difference!

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