PARIS (AP) — Airbus says the aviation industry’s unprecedented troubles are just beginning.
The European manufacturing giant reported 481 million euros ($515 million) in losses in the first quarter, put thousands of workers on furlough and sought billions in loans to survive the coronavirus crisis. And its CEO said Wednesday it’s still at an “early stage.”
Even after virus-related travel restrictions eventually ease, Chief Executive Guillaume Faury acknowledged it will take a long time to persuade customers to get back on planes. Just how long, he can’t predict.
“We are in the gravest crisis the aerospace industry has ever known,” Faury said. “Now we need to work as an industry to restore passenger confidence in air travel as we learn to coexist with this pandemic.”
Images shared online of packed planes and maskless, elbow-to-elbow passengers on U.S. flights – despite virus protection guidelines – have worried travelers and airline unions alike. International travel restrictions, meanwhile, have grounded thousands of planes worldwide.
Faury insisted that airplanes are “probably the best place to be” during a virus outbreak because of air filtration systems put in place after previous virus outbreaks and other threats, but said Airbus will work with aviation authorities to try to calm the public.
Shares in Airbus and Boeing have dropped some 60% this year as customer airlines collapse or seek billions of dollars in government bailouts.
Airbus was unable to deliver 60 planned planes in the quarter because of virus-related problems, and said the second quarter looks similarly rough. Customers are asking for delays, which Faury called “the biggest issue we are managing at the moment.”
Airbus executives expressed hope Wednesday that deliveries could start picking up in the second half of the year. But they refused to issue long-term guidance given that the virus is still spreading, and that governments are reluctant to