UPDATE: LOT Polish Airlines will be restarting service on select flights.
This situation sure is evolving rapidly, making it hard for airlines to develop long-term strategies to cope with the new reality. A few days ago we still saw airlines hesitate to allow people to change and cancel tickets for free, and now we’re seeing airlines shut down temporarily altogether.
LOT Polish Airlines suspends flights
Polish national airline LOT has announced that they will be suspending all flights as of March 15, 2020, for a period of 10 days. This includes the company’s flights from both Poland and Hungary (as they even operate long haul flights out of Budapest).
While the company claims that cancelations will only last for 10 days, I’d note that I see all LOT fights “zeroed out” (meaning all inventory has been removed) through March 29, 2020. That suggests to me that they may plan on this lasting at least two weeks.
LOT has a fleet of nearly 100 aircraft, including 15 Boeing 787s, which they use for long haul routes. Their biggest long haul destination is the US, and presumably those flights would have been canceled anyway, given the new US travel ban on Europe.
Poland is essentially closing borders
This policy comes as a response to the Polish government’s decision to more or less close their borders. As of Sunday, Poland will be banning foreigners from entering the country, and will impose a 14 day quarantine on citizens returning home.
As Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the situation:
“The state will not abandon (its citizens). However, in the current situation, we cannot allow ourselves to keep borders open to foreigners.”
With this, the country won’t have any more international inbound flights or trains as of Sunday, with the exception of some charter flights bringing nationals home. Poland is also closing shopping malls, in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
These are truly unprecedented times. As far as I know, LOT is the first global airline to announce that they’re completely suspending operations (I wrote yesterday about how La Compagnie is suspending operations, but they’re much smaller).
I imagine LOT may only be the first of many airlines to suspend operations…