Goodbye Season 2020? American, Qatar Push Dubrovnik to 2021, Eurowings Cuts Fleet

Total Croatia News

April 8, 2020 – More signs that perhaps it is time to say Goodbye Season 2020, as American Airlines and Qatar Airways shelve all plans for Dubrovnik this year. 

One of the most bizarre things in my world at the moment (and with so much weird stuff going down, it has to be bizarre to even get a mention at the moment) is the lack of understanding in some quarters that things have changed, perhaps (or more likely, probably) forever. 

Less than 2 weeks ago, on March 25, 2020, I wrote an article called Hope v Reality: Will There Be a 2020 Tourist Season in Croatia? The article got a lot of attention, and it was also carried by leading Croatian portal (thank you! – you can see the Croatian version here).

One of the points I made in that was that people were on different stages of understanding around the globe about the pandemic, with people demanding I tell them if their flights were going to be ok in April. As if I run the airlines. 

That was then, and the world has changed several times since March 25. But still the questions fill my inbox. Will Ryanair be flying in May? Is my Jet2 flight in June going to be ok?

I have no idea if and when this pandemic will pass, and how the world will look from the other side. Optimists (and I include myself among them) hope there will be a late season, even if the summer is lost. Here is what the airlines think – this from ExYuAviation:

American Airlines has cut its international summer schedule by 60% to match a sharp drop in demand due to the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. The carrier’s seasonal service between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik, which was to run between June and October on a daily basis, has been suspended for the entire summer season. “Nobody is booking travel”, Vasu Raja, American’s Senior Vice President for Network Strategy said. “If we can reduce our capacity this summer, we can reduce our expenses”, he added. In total, American is suspending 25 summer seasonal flights until 2021. It will focus on services into London Heathrow and Madrid, where passengers can connect to flights on its partners British Airways and Iberia, respectively.

In the same article, ExYuAviation also reports that Qatar Airways has also postponed its planned Doha to Dubrovnik route until May 17, 2021, and Air Baltic similarly from Vilnius. And the news from Germany is hardly encouraging either…

The ever-reliable ch-aviation portal, whose main subsidiary office is in Zagreb (see TCN feature story last year), talked about the reduction of capacity of another important player in the Croatian low-cost market – Eurowings – in Lufthansa Group confirms Germanwings closure yesterday.

In tandem with its capacity rationalisation, Eurowings’ headcount is also expected to be reduced in line with the reshaping of its network to focus on short- and medium-haul routes. As such, Eurowings will reduce the overall number of aircraft it contracts. In the short-haul segment, an additional ten A320-200s are planned to be phased out while its long-haul business, which is run under the commercial responsibility of Lufthansa (LH, Frankfurt Int’l), will also be reduced.

It should be noted that it is not all doom and gloom from the budget airlines with flights to the region, as Wizzair plans to restart operations in three locations in former Yugoslavia (although not Croatia at this point) in May, pending government approval. 

Minister of Tourism Gari Capelli, who is fond of talking numbers and percentage increases at every turn, was a little more downbeat in his assessment of how things will pan out – read more in Tourism Minister Predicts Revenue Plunge, Regardless of Summer Season.

So is it Goodbye Season 2020, or is there still some hope?  Most people will be much further along the path of understanding of the current realities than they were two weeks ago, but here are the main factors to consider when assessing if there will still be a season:

  • Even if all this is over by June, so many people will have lost their jobs that the market of tourists is going to be much smaller. 
  • Competition from countries like Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey will be INSANE – and Croatia never does well on price. 
  • There will be much fewer flights, even for those who are happy to jump on a plane and mix with others. 
  • Not so many people will have holiday time anyway, as many have been forced to take their holidays now as companies rationalise their losses. 
  • There will be big patriotic campaigns from governments (including Croatia) to holiday at home and support domestic tourism – the French in France, the Italians in Italy etc.
  • SO many tourism businesses in Croatia and elsewhere will go bankrupt that there will be an inevitable disruption in the tourism infrastrucure. For example, a hotel group going under would leave a destination without hotels. 

I really wish things looked brighter, but when the big airlines are taking decisions in early April to postpone all until next year, perhaps we should all start to face up to the reality of Goodbye Season 2020.

For those looking for direction on planning for post-corona tourism and how that might even look like, I highly recommend the excellent recent series by Zoran Pejovic from Paradox Hospitality on post-corona tourism


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