Over 25,000 China flights axed as virus panic creates disruption

(Bloomberg) — More than 25,000 flights to, from and within China will be canceled this week as more than two dozen airlines suspend services to the country because of the coronavirus outbreak, leading to an unprecedented shakeup in the world’s second-largest aviation market.

International capacity will fall by 4.4 million seats a week, with Lion Air, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Turkish Airlines cutting flights to China, resulting in the “most dramatic change in schedule” in such a short time, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd. The loss in seats in the international market is equivalent to the entire Indian market, OAG said in a statement Monday.

The cancellation comes as data showed the number of trips made in China over the Lunar New Year break plunged 73% to about 190 million compared to the holiday last year as people refrained from travel because of the outbreak, according to China’s Ministry of Transport. The number of people who went by train dropped 67% to 31 million, air travel passengers slid 57% to 8 million, while road and water transport both fell more than 70% to 150 million and 3 million, respectively.

“The likelihood is that we will see further changes in the next week in response to both the virus but also demand which has naturally been impacted with consumer confidence badly damaged,” OAG said in the statement. “One virus has essentially resulted in the amount of capacity equivalent to the whole of the Indian market being wiped out is something we hopefully will not see again for a very long time.”

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose past 360 on Monday and total confirmed cases reached almost 17,400. Global efforts to contain the spread escalated after the U.S. confirmed more infections and the Philippines reported the first fatality outside China.

In the Chinese domestic market — about 43 times larger than the largest international market — 3.8 million seats will be lost, according to OAG.

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