SYDNEY / SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The widening of travel curbs to curb the spread of coronavirus led to further flight cancellations on Monday, with new restrictions covering India, Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
Globally, last week’s number of scheduled flights dropped more than 12% from a year ago, said flight data provider OAG, with many airlines announcing further upcoming cuts.
“It’s a war against a virus,” Andrew Herdman, general manager of the Asia Pacific Airlines Association, told Reuters.
Indian commercial airlines were expected to stop domestic flights from Tuesday midnight, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the latest country to impose strict restrictions on air travel.
Cargo flights were exempt from the order.
The impact on the planemakers was profound and sudden and on Monday Planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA) announced new steps to strengthen its financial position, including signing a 15 billion euro ($ 16.1 billion) credit line.
Airbus added that it was withdrawing its financial guidance for 2020, dropping a proposed dividend for 2019 that had a cash value of 1.4 billion euros ($ 1.5 billion) and suspending funding to top up plans staff pensions.
His US rival Boeing (BAN) is under similar pressure and has demanded a $ 60 billion bailout for the U.S. industry.
Australia and New Zealand have both warned against non-essential domestic travel, while the United Arab Emirates have stopped flights and Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have taken steps to ban passengers in foreign transit.
“What we have to do is take care of people’s institutions and livelihoods, soft capital, so that we can effectively start again in a timely manner when the time comes,” said Herdman.
The United Arab Emirates, home of the main Emirates carriers [EMIRA.UL] and Etihad Airways, said it would suspend all passenger flights and airport transit for two weeks to help curb the virus.
The UAE decision comes into effect in 48 hours, with exempt freight evacuation and emergency flights. Emirates replied that it would temporarily suspend all passenger services for two weeks from March 25th.
Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) grounded most of its fleet after the Asian city entered or transited short-term visitors on Sunday.
“This is the biggest challenge in the existence of the SIA Group,” said chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong in a note to the staff.
The group said it had reached agreements with unions on a number of cost-cutting measures, including unpaid leave, affecting around 10,000 employees. The CEO has been suffering a 30% cut since the beginning of April.
The airline normally relies on connecting passengers from markets such as Australia to Europe and India to North America through its Singapore hub.
Taiwan announced similar travel curbs that will affect China Airlines Ltd (2610.TW) and EVA Airways Corp (2618.TW), which marketed Taipei as a convenient and convenient transit airport, competing with Hong Kong and Singapore.
In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (0293.HK) reduced passenger capacity by 96% in April and May due to government restrictions affecting travel.
In the southern hemisphere, Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX), Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (VAH.AX) and Air New Zealand Ltd (AIR.NZ) were reviewing schedules after their governments advised against non-essential domestic travel.
Regional Express Holdings Ltd (REX) (REX.AX), which serves remote Australian cities, said it will close all operations, except for a few subsidized routes, from April 6, unless governments quickly express their willingness to bear the losses.
In mainland China, domestic capacity has grown as some internal sidewalks are loosened, but there are concerns that passengers on international flights may re-import the virus.
The Chinese aviation regulator said that all international flights arriving in the capital will be diverted to other airports on Monday.
($ 1 = 1.7483 Australian dollars)
($ 1 = 0.9340 euros)
Reporting by Jamie Freed; Further reports from 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; Written by Alexander Smith; Curated by Lincoln Feast, Clarence Fernandez and Keith Weir