This week, Air China, United Airlines and Delta Airlines confirmed the cancellation of all flights to Nice until at least mid-September. It comes as countries across Europe are slowly easing lockdown measures. The Schengen Zone has been closed since the beginning of March, and there is no update on when the EU external borders will reopen.
At Nice Côte d’Azur airport, air traffic ground to a halt mid-March. A few national flights to Paris and Corsica, as well as some to London, remain operational. Now, with the latest updates from Air China, United Airlines and Delta Airlines, a third of the international destinations that Nice airport serves are inaccessible.
Closure of EU external borders
Air China first announced the cancellation of the three daily flights between Nice and Beijing until at least September. Even if ending lockdown proves successful and the virus is contained, the flights will not start up again in summer.
The two American airlines United and Delta announced long-haul flights to Europe would be cancelled until at least autumn. Given the worsening situation in the US, many aviation experts believe flights outside of the Schengen area will not recommence until after September.
“It is indeed a risk, but unfortunately we aren’t the ones in control,” said director of Nice Côte d’Azur airport Dominique Thillaud. “It depends on the evolution of the pandemic worldwide, and government and European decisions on the opening of borders outside the Schengen area.”
Although they have released few updates, other airlines are yet to change their summer schedules. Air Canada, Qatar Airways and Emirates still show their usual timetables online for the summer period. Final decisions cannot be made until the reopening of the Schengen Zone is set out.
€3 billion euros and counting
It represents a worrying future for the Riviera’s economy. After Paris, it is the number one tourist destination in France, welcoming 40% of tourists annually and contributing €1.5 billion to the economy. Roughly 68% of those flying into Nice come from destinations outside of the Schengen Zone.
Since the beginning of the crisis, estimates state that the city of Nice alone has lost €3 billion.
According to Yvon Grosso, President of the employer association Medef in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the GDP of this region could fall by more than 10%. In the rest of the country, economists predict a fall of 8%. The difference is due to the prevalence of the tourism industry in these areas.
Lockdown will end in France on May 11th.