Coronavirus cutting many links to China: travel analyst

Agence France-Presse . Paris | Published: 23:03, Feb 01,2020


Many airlines have suspended flights to China to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 200 people, but the country has not been completely cut off, a travel analyst group said on Friday.

How do you get to China: Chinese airlines continue to fly there from cities in Europe and the Middle East.

Japanese carriers have cancelled flights to Wuhan, the centre of the viral epidemic, but at last notice they still serve other big cities.

Official Japanese recommendations to avoid travelling to China are likely to curb demand soon, however.

‘With the crisis evolving rapidly from day to day and a growing number of airlines cancelling flights to China, close monitoring is needed,’ noted Olivier Pondi at ForwardKeys, a data analysis specialist for the travel and air transport sector.

Wuhan has been cut off since January 23, as has the Hubei province that surrounds it. A sanitary cordon by Chinese authorities means that 56 million people living in the region are unable to leave.

What restrictions have been decided by other countries: Italy said on Thursday that flights to and from China would be suspended after two cases of the virus were confirmed in Rome, and on Friday proclaimed a state of emergency to accelerate efforts to avoid an epidemic.

Israel has forbidden flights from China from landing there.

The United States has raised its travel alert to the highest level and recommended Thursday not to travel to China.

Tokyo has asked citizens to avoid any non-essential travel to China.

Russia and Kazakhstan have closed their borders with China.

Singapore, which does not have a common border with China, has barred travellers coming from the country.

Mongolia has also suspended entry by foreigners coming from China.

What is the impact on flight reservations: The spread of the virus ‘has caused a substantial setback in flight bookings for the Chinese New Year period, 10th January – 6th February 2020,’ ForwardKeys noted.

By January 26, ‘a slew of cancellations had changed the picture dramatically,’ and ‘the prospect of a record-breaking year was gone.’

‘Asia Pacific, the region which attracts over 75 per cent of Chinese New Year travellers, has been worst hit,’ ForwardKeys said.

‘As of 19th January, bookings were 1.3 per cent behind where they were at the equivalent moment in 2019; a week later, they were 15.1 per cent behind.’

Reservations for flights from China to Europe were 10.5 per cent higher on the same basis on January 19 before dropping to just 0.5 per cent higher a week later, the company’s data showed.

On the 26th, ‘bookings to the Americas were 22.5 per cent behind,’ and they were off by 9.9 per cent to Africa and the Middle East.

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