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Huge flight cancellations continue in China as coronavirus spreads

Huge flight cancellations continue in China as coronavirus spreads

Over 200,000 flights have now been cancelled or proactively removed from schedules to, from and within China due to coronavirus, according to Cirium.

The figure – which accounts for over two thirds of China’s originally scheduled flights – dates from when the authorities restricted travel in and out of Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 23rd to February 18th.

As the virus transmission and infection rates rise, airlines are increasingly cancelling flights.

A total of 99,254 flights have not flown against the adjusted schedule between January 23rd and February 18th with domestic flights accounting for 89 per cent of that figure.

However, Cirium data shows more international carriers are now cancelling flights, particularly those linking to Greater China.

Between January 23rd and January 28th, the number of flights not flown totalled 9,807 with only domestic services affected at that stage.

The unprecedented increase since then highlights the speed at which airlines have acted to help contain the outbreak.


As well as flights being cancelled or not flown, Cirium’s analysis also shows airlines proactively removing flights from their future schedules.

Richard Evans, senior consultant at Ascend by Cirium, said: “The International Air Transport Association had originally predicted global airline capacity to grow by 4.7 per cent in 2020, but in the current uncertain dynamic, are issuing revised guidance which indicates stagnation or slight contraction of the global market in 2020.

“For the first eight weeks of the year, Cirium’s schedules data shows that global capacity fell by 0.9 per cent compared to 2019.

“The next two weeks showing a continuing fall of around ten per cent year-on-year, led by Chinese airlines having removed over 60 per cent of their scheduled flights.”

He added: “We are also now seeing impact outside of China.

“Countries with the biggest exposure to outbound Chinese leisure travellers, such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia have seen schedules cut by 70 per cent or more on services to China and are starting to see further reductions on non-Chinese routes.

“This will inevitably be hurting sectors focused on the tourist economy, including airlines.”

IATA said earlier the outbreak could cost airlines, mainly in China, around US$30 billion.