An increase in travel warnings by various governments and a drop in demand for tickets from passengers bound for China because of the fast spread of the coronavirus outbreak, decisions to suspend or scale back more direct flights to China’s major cities are being taken by global airlines.
As of Wednesday, a total of 170 deaths because of the coronavirus have been reported in China alone, which was 38 more than what was reported a day before, while the number of people infected by the virus has increased to more than 1,700.
Since the SARS about a decade ago, outbreak the spread of the coronavirus is the biggest epidemic that global airlines have had to face as a threat to its business. The SARS outbreak had peaked in April 2003 and analysts had noted had caused a decline of 45 per cent in passenger demand in Asia.
In addition to voluntary restrictions by American companies on its employees preventing them from travelling to China that have put into place, the White House is also planning to implement further measures to restrict flights to and from the United States to China. This was announced by President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Wednesday.
“The matter is under discussion every day,” he said.
All direct flights to and from mainland China have been suspended by British Airways.For the months of January or February, seats no direct flights to mainland China are available for booking on the website of the airline – BA.com. However, the airline has told the media via an email that the suspension was only applicable till January 31 and will take a further call after conducting a close examination of the situation.
All direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai have also been suspended by Air Canada even though earlier this week the airline had said that only a few of the 33 weekly flights to China would be cancelled by it. This decision was taken following a travel advisory by the Canadian government to its citizens to not undertake non-essential travel to China. The suspension is applicable from January 30 to February 29.
Flights from Los Angeles to Beijing and Shanghai will be suspended by American Airlines, the company announced on Wednesday. However it would continue to operate flights from Dallas. On the other hand, the number of flights of Delta Air Lines for China form te US was halved to about 21 weekly flights, the company has announced.
For now, a decision to suspending all flights to China has been postponed by the White House, said reports quoting information from US officials. However the deciiosn could change depending on the evolving situation.
Flights to China were also suspended by Germany’s Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines, among the European carriers. On the other hands, flights to Beijing and Shanghai are set to be reduced by Air France.
“The airline industry has proven resilient to shocks in the past,” S&P Global Ratings said. “However, the impact on Asia-Pacific airlines and other operators will depend on how quickly the virus is contained and the extent to which it spreads beyond China.”
(Adapted from, Reuters.com)