Airlines, travel industry worst hit by corononavirus
30 January 2020
The spread of the new coronavirus from China to more than 16 countries across the world has frozen the travel industry while forcing airlines across the world to halt flights to China and alter flight schedules.
British Airways (BA) halted all flights to China and American Airlines suspended flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing as fears spread about a new virus that has killed more than 130 people in China.
The carriers on Wednesday joined several Asian carriers that are either suspending or significantly cutting back service there as fears spread about the coronavirus.
South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air is also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers, including Finn air, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.
Lufthansa is suspending its flights while Swiss and Austrian Airlines flights to and from China have been halted until 9 February, raising concerns about the broader economic impact of the virus outbreak.
Hotels, airlines, casinos and cruise operators are among the industries worst hit by the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.
BA said it was immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the UK government warned against unnecessary travel to the country. The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing.
US officials said the White House had decided against suspending all flights to China for now, but it could revisit the decision if events warrant.
Air Canada, which planned earlier this week to cancel just a select number of its 33 weekly flights to China, said on Wednesday it would suspend all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
Among European carriers, Germany's Lufthansa suspended its own, Swiss and Austrian Airlines flights to and from China until Feb. 9, while Air France said it would reduce its flight schedule to Beijing and Shanghai this week.
Iberia, part of the IAG group along with BA, said it was temporarily suspending all flights to Shanghai.
"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."
Indonesia’s Lion Air said on Wednesday it would suspend all direct flights to China. India’s IndiGo is also suspending flights to Chengdu and Hong Kong.
Carriers, including Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways, said on Wednesday amenities such as hot towels, blankets and magazines would not be offered on flights to and from mainland China from Thursday until further notice.
Cathay Pacific and other airlines are allowing their flight attendants to wear face masks and gloves on flights to protect against fears of contagion.