Airbus A320 Jet With 107 Aboard Crashes in Pakistan

An Airbus SE jet operated by Pakistan International Airlines crashed with 107 people on board as it approached its destination of Karachi.

Flight PK 8303, which took off from Lahore, was carrying 99 passengers and 8 crew, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said. The country’s army tweeted that troops had reached the site to conduct relief-and-rescue efforts. The A320 narrow-body jet was built in 2004, data from Flightradar24 showed.

It’s the second plane crash for the Pakistani carrier in less than four years. The airline’s chairman resigned in late 2016, less than a week after the crash of an ATR 42 turboprop killed 47 people. Friday’s crash happened on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, when many Pakistanis return home to celebrate.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted he’s in touch with the airline’s chief executive officer and that an investigation would be conducted soon.

A CAA representative couldn’t immediately confirm the number of casualties and said the authority is waiting for more information. An Airbus representative said the company is in touch with the airline to gather more information and declined to comment further.

Like other carriers worldwide, PIA struggled with plane groundings in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company, which hasn’t made a profit since 2004, asked the government for financial support in March.

But signs of a recovery were in sight as the country began emerging from a two-month lockdown. Pakistan recently began resuming domestic flights last week, starting with 20% of capacity.

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Government warns airlines on refunds, allows 5% of flights to halt

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The Department of Transportation warned airlines against "unfair or deceptive" refund policies after receiving a record number of complaints from customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

DOT also announced airlines receiving government aid under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act will be allowed to stop up to 5 percent of scheduled flights.

Passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration has rebounded from April lows, but are still down around 90 percent.

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The department said it received 25,000 air travel service complaints and inquiries in March and April, far above the 1,500 complaints and inquiries it gets in a typical month.

Provided by Vince Warburton, passengers get off an American Airlines flight after they landed at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. (Vince Warburton via AP)

"The Department has received an unprecedented volume of complaints from passengers and is examining this issue closely to ensure that airlines’ policies and practices conform to DOT’s refund rules," Transportation Department Secretary Elaine Chao said Tuesday. "The Department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time."

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Airlines and ticket agents must comply with aviation consumer protection requirements and refund customers for canceled flights under the Department's April 7 Enforcement Order 2020-4-2," according to the department.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 21.25 -0.76 -3.45%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HLDG. 22.95 -1.01 -4.23%
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 9.65 -0.45 -4.41%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 25.29 -0.80 -3.06%

U.S. airlines are spending more than $10 billion per month during COVID-19, even though most flights are averaging only a dozen customers and 50 percent of the active U.S. fleet has been grounded, industry trade group Airlines for America told Reuters.

The group also said that refunding all passenger tickets, not only for canceled flights but for nonrefundable tickets and flights canceled by passengers instead of airlines, "will result in negative cash balances that will lead to bankruptcy."

TSA agents wear masks as they screen passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport April 15, 2020, in SeaTac, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The U.S. Treasury has given airlines $25 billion in cash grants to keep workers employed during the outbreak.

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Since the start of the pandemic, U.S. airlines have been working on ways to ensure their passengers' safety and peace of mind while traveling. Last week, a number of major carriers included Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit and Southwest rolled out new safety measures such as required masks for passengers and staff for that reason. American, Delta, JetBlue, United and have all previously announced that passengers have to wear face covers on flights.

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United Airlines clarifies new policy as more photos emerge of packed planes

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United Airlines clarified its new policy on filling airplane seats after more passengers raised an outcry over "packed" planes.

"Starting next week, customers on flights that are expected to be closer to full capacity can rebook on a different flight or receive a travel credit. We’ll do our best to reach out about 24 hours before departure and we’ll also provide options at the gate," United said in a tweet.

Dr. Ethan Weiss, who was recently on a United flight home to California after volunteering at a New York City hospital, said every seat on the carrier's 737 was full and that passengers were "scared."

Other United passengers posted photos of crowded cabins.

Weiss said that United should have communicated better after sending an email to customers on April 30 promising that [w]e're automatically blocking middle seats to give you enough space on board."

A 76-year-old New Jersey woman told The New York Post her United flight from San Juan to Houston last week was packed and that the crew did not force the passenger next to her to wear a mask.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HLDG. 22.86 -1.11 -4.63%

“I had three friends who came in — one on JetBlue, one on American and one on Southwest — and they all had the middle seat empty,” Mary Pearson told the Post. “Maybe I should have checked with United beforehand, but it was really upsetting getting on the plane to see what was happening.”

United's website says that the airline cannot guarantee passengers will be next to unoccupied seats but "based on historically low travel demand and the implementation of our various social distancing measures that is the likely outcome."

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The airline is adapting to the pandemic and will start giving passengers hand sanitizer wipes and providing face coverings if needed.

“We’ve overhauled our cleaning and safety procedures and implemented a new boarding and deplaning process to promote social distancing," a United spokesperson told FOX Business on Monday.

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Airlines, Treasury Reach Tentative Accord to Tap Billions in Aid

U.S. airlines reached preliminary agreements with the Treasury Department to access billions of dollars in aid as the government attempts to shore up one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal covers all major carriers, Treasury said in a statement. American Airlines Group Inc. said it would get $5.8 billion in support, while Southwest Airlines Co. said it would get $3.2 billion. The money comes from $25 billion in payroll assistance allocated for passenger carriers in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law March 27.

“We welcome the news that a number of major airlines intend to participate in the Payroll Support Program,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. The program “will support American workers and help preserve the strategic importance of the airline industry while allowing for appropriate compensation to the taxpayers.”

The aid represents a temporary lifeline for airlines after the outbreak and government travel restrictions erased all but 5% of daily passenger demand in the U.S. Forced in some cases to pay more in refunds than they were taking in from new ticket sales and fees, carriers have cut capacity as much as 80% and parked thousands of planes in the industry’s worst-ever disruption. The Treasury expects to start doling out the funds as soon as this week, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Airlines that agreed to participate also included Alaska Air Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp, United Airlines Holdings Inc., Allegiant Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and SkyWest, according to the Treasury.

Shares of American, United, Delta and Southwest all rose on the news in extended trading.

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Global Airlines Raised More Than $17 Billion From Banks in Weeks

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Airlines worldwide raised more than $17 billion in bank loans in March to shore up their finances amid the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. carriers were the most active, borrowing $12.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Delta Air Lines Inc. is the top borrower this month, obtaining $5.6 billion, followed by Singapore Airlines, which secured a S$4 billion ($2.8 billion) bridge loan, and United Airlines Holdings Inc., which raised $2.5 billion.

The airlines have borrowed new loans or drawn down on existing credit lines that they typically didn’t use before the health crisis. Companies in all industries globally have raised more than $230 billion from commercial banks since early March in response to the virus.

Eleven other airlines, including British Airways Plc and Etihad Airways PJSC, have about $8 billion in combined revolving facilities that they may not yet have drawn, the data show.

The aviation industry is asking individual governments for state aid, including carriers based in Germany, Thailand, and the U.S.

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