February 05, 2020 13:39
Airlines are increasingly canceling flights due to plummeting traveler numbers as coronavirus spreads quickly beyond China's borders. Industry watchers forecast dismal earnings this year for both flag and budget carriers around the world.
The eight Korean airlines saw operating rates on flights to China drop from 100 percent on Jan. 27 to around 31 percent only a week later.
Korean Air has halted 20 routes to China while cutting down on the frequency of another eight. "Only the Gimpo-Beijing and Gimpo-Shanghai routes remain at seven flights a week, but those could be halted or cut at any time," a staffer said.
Before the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Korean Air operated 204 round-trip flights on 30 routes to China a week. But the number has fallen to 57 a week on 10 routes, slashing the operating rate to 28 percent.
Asiana Airlines flew 202 flights a week on 26 routes to China, but now runs only 89 on 20 routes. An Asiana staffer said, "Not only the Beijing and Shanghai routes but profitable ones focusing on business flyers have been reduced, which shows how serious the situation is."
Budget carriers face even more dire conditions. Their earnings had already taken a hit from the boycott of Japan that started in July last year, so they focused on bolstering routes to China to compensate. But the coronavirus outbreak has dashed any hopes of growth.
Budget airlines' operating rate of flights to China had fallen to 20 percent as of Tuesday and from 164 flights a week to just 34.
T'way Air had six routes to China, Eastar Jet seven, Jin Air two and Air Seoul two, but they have halted all of them. Only Jeju Air operates five out of 12 routes and Air Busan two out of nine, and even those could be halted at any time.
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