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UPDATE 1-Spanish airlines see tough winter after disastrous summer

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MADRID, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Spanish airlines expect a tough autumn and winter even if some traffic is resuming after a summer that has seen passenger traffic nosedive 80% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of Spain’s airlines industry group said on Tuesday.

The capacity in September and October will likely be 40% of what it was last year, Asociacion de Lineas Aereas (ALA) chief Javier Gandara told a news conference.

“The actual number of passengers is much lower than the capacity as planes are flying less full,” Gandara said, adding that given occupancy ratios, the number of passengers in September and October was set to be close to 20%-30% of what it was one year ago.

Following months are also expected to be tough, with less visibility at this time, he said, forecasting that passenger traffic during the winter season will not be much higher than 30% of last year’s.

Gandara estimated a likely loss of 113 million passengers in Spain this year with lost revenues for the industry of up to 15 billion euros ($17.83 billion) or possibly even higher, considering that the more lucrative long-distance travel is suffering more than domestic and regional flights.

Travel restrictions and fear of COVID-19 contagion have heavily weighed on the air transportation business in Spain, as well as on the broader economy.

The tourism-dependent economy was one of the worst-hit by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in Europe, with an 18.5% contraction in April-June from the previous quarter. The government expects a GDP contraction of over 10% this year.

Gandara said that airlines needed government support, including cash to meet financial obligations, an extension of furlough schemes until Easter 2021 and lower airport fees.

He added that a no-deal Brexit would further hurt airlines as it would lead to an increase of airport fees of about 6 euros per passenger coming from Britain.

$1 = 0.8412 euros Reporting by Inti Landauro Editing by Ingrid Melander

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