Skies clear as more flights grounded by growing coronavirus curbs
Send a link to a friend
[March 23, 2020]
By Jamie Freed
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Widening curbs on travel
to contain the spread of the coronavirus led airlines to ramp up flight
cancellations on Monday, with new restrictions spanning Australia, New
Zealand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, Singapore and
Globally the number of scheduled flights last week was down more than
12% from the year earlier, flight data provider OAG said, with many
airlines having announced further cuts to come.
"It is a war against a virus," Andrew Herdman, director general of the
Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, told Reuters by telephone on
Credit ratings agency Moody's estimated global capacity would fall by
25% to 35% in 2020, assuming the spread of the coronavirus slowed by the
end of June.
Australia and New Zealand both warned against non-essential domestic
travel, while the UAE halted flights and Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan
took steps to ban foreign transit passengers.
"What we have to do is take care of the institutions and people's
livelihoods, the soft capital, so that we can restart effectively in a
timely way when the time comes," Herdman said.
The UAE, home to major carriers Emirates [EMIRA.UL] and Etihad Airways,
said it would suspend all passenger flights and airport transit for two
weeks to help rein in the virus.
The UAE's decision takes effect in 48 hours, with cargo and emergency
evacuation flights exempted. Emirates responded by saying it would
temporarily suspend all passenger services for two weeks from March 25.
Singapore Airlines <SIAL.SI> had been planning to halve its
international capacity before the Asian city-state banned entry or
transit by short-term visitors on Sunday.
It stepped that up to a cut of 96% until at least the end of April, with
plans to ground most of its fleet.
The airline normally relies heavily on connecting passengers from
markets such as Australia to Europe, and India to North America through
its Singapore hub.
Singapore Airlines said it would look to defer aircraft deliveries and
has drawn on lines of credit to meet immediate cashflow requirements.
Taiwan announced similar curbs that will hit China Airlines Ltd
<2610.TW> and EVA Airways Corp <2618.TW>, which have marketed Taipei as
a convenient and affordable transit airport, competing with Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd <0293.HK> has cut its passenger
capacity by 96% in April and May as government curbs hit travel.
The impact on planemakers has been deep and sudden and on Monday
planemaker Airbus <AIR.PA> announced new steps to bolster its financial
position, including the signing of a credit facility for 15 billion
euros ($16.1 billion).
[to top of second column]
Members of cleaning staff in protective suits board an Emirates
Airbus A380 to disinfected it against the coronavirus, in Dubai,
United Arab Emirates March 5, 2020. Picture taken March 5, 2020.
Emirates Airline/Handout via REUTERS
Airbus added it was withdrawing its 2020 financial guidance,
dropping a proposed 2019 dividend that had a cash value of 1.4
billion euros ($1.5 billion) and suspending funding to top up staff
Airbus said it had enough liquidity to cope with any further cash
requirements related to the coronavirus, adding that it had around
30 billion euros worth of available liquidity.
Its U.S. rival Boeing <BA.N> is under similar pressure and has
called for a $60 billion lifeline for the U.S. industry.
In the southern hemisphere, Qantas Airways Ltd <QAN.AX>, Virgin
Australia Holdings Ltd <VAH.AX> and Air New Zealand Ltd <AIR.NZ>
were re-examining schedules after their governments advised against
non-essential domestic travel.
Regional Express Holdings Ltd (REX) <REX.AX>, which serves remote
Australian towns, said it would shut all operations, except some
subsidised routes, from April 6, unless governments quickly
expressed a willingness to underwrite its losses.
In Hawaii, which ordered 14 days in quarantine for all arrivals from
Thursday, Hawaiian Airlines <HA.O> said it would suspend most
long-haul passenger services except for a daily flight from Honolulu
to Los Angeles and a weekly flight to American Samoa.
In mainland China, domestic capacity has been rising as some
internal curbs are eased, but there are concerns that passengers on
international flights could re-import the virus.
More than 570,000 flights to, from and within, China were cancelled
from Jan. 1 to March 16, data provider Cirium says.
China's aviation regulator said all international flights due to
arrive in the capital will be diverted from Monday to other airports
in the country.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Additional reporting by Alexander
Cornwell in Dubai, Stella Qiu in Beijing, Ben Blanchard in Taipei,
David Shepardson in Washington and Sudip Kar-Gupta and Laura
Marchioro in Paris; Writing by Alexander Smith; Editing by Lincoln
Feast, Clarence Fernandez and xxxx)
[© 2020 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2020 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.