Skies cleared as more flights are grounded by growing Covid-19 curbs
WIDENING curbs on travel to contain the spread of the coronavirus led airlines to ramp up flight cancellations yesterday, with new restrictions spanning Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
Globally the number of scheduled flights last week was down more than 12%, flight data provider OAG said, with many airlines having announced further cuts to come.
India’s government ordered commercial airlines to shut down domestic operations from midnight today on top of a ban on international flights to try and contain the coronavirus.
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. “We have to take care of the institutions and people’s livelihoods, the soft capital, so that we can restart in a timely way” the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said.
The UAE, home to major carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways, said it would suspend all passenger flights and airport transit for two weeks to help rein in the virus. Singapore Airlines had been planning to halve its international capacity before the Asian city-state banned entry or transit by short-term visitors on Sunday. Taiwan announced similar curbs that will hit China Airlines and EVA Airways, which have marketed Taipei as a convenient and affordable transit airport. In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways has cut its passenger capacity by 96%.
The impact on plane makers has been deep and sudden and yesterday Airbus announced new steps to bolster its financial position, including the signing of a credit facility for $16.1 billion (R285bn).
In the southern hemisphere, Qantas Airways, Virgin Australia Holdings and Air New Zealand were re-examining schedules after their governments advised against non-essential domestic travel. In Hawaii, which ordered 14 days in quarantine for all arrivals from Thursday, Hawaiian Airlines 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.
DR NNAEMEKA Ndodo, right, and colleagues work in the lab in Abuja, Nigeria.