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Airlines lose $652 million over coronavirus spread



As the coronavirus outbreak continues to ravage mainland China with spread across the globe, losses of the air transport industry has been estimated to reach $652 million already.

The loss, according to OAG Aviation worldwide, was on account of cancelled flights, route withdrawals and shutdowns by airlines to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

John Grant, an analyst at OAG Aviation Worldwide, said the coronavirus outbreak has already cut 1.4 million seats from China’s weekly international capacity and that it has cost airlines servicing the region $652 million in lost revenue.

SARS had the most dramatic impact when it spread in 2003 and resulted in a 35 per cent drop in revenue for Asia-Pacific airlines, measured on a per kilometer basis.

A number of airlines around the world have cancelled flights to and from Hong Kong in the wake of the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The virus has claimed over 1,000 lives and the total number of confirmed cases has reached 45,000 as of Thursday. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially named the deadly virus as “Covid-19”.

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, told its 27,000 employees to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave as the airline faces a crisis.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Augustus Tang, said: “I am hoping all of you will participate, from our frontline employees to our senior leaders, and share in our current challenges.”

The request lays bare desperate times at Cathay, which was hammered last year by months of political chaos and protests in Hong Kong, and has now been hurt further by the fallout from the virus outbreak.

The coronavirus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, spread over the Lunar New Year holiday, which would normally be one of the busiest times for regional airlines.

In his video message to employees, Tang warned that Cathay was experiencing “one of the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays we have ever had” because of the virus.

“And we don’t know how long it will last,” he added. “With such an uncertain outlook, preserving our cash is now the key to protecting our business.”

The virus has so far killed 1,155 people out of a total of at least 45,000 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50 million people.

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.

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