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Should you stay or go? The coronavirus is making airlines and travellers sweat

Picture: Laurel Chor/ Twitter.

Picture: Laurel Chor/ Twitter.

Published Mar 9, 2020


People plan their trips months if not years in advance. I hoped to travel more this year but booking flights and holiday packages amid the coronavirus outbreak is a scary thought. 

Travellers, including myself, spend years saving for a trip. They hold off many luxury items in a bid to explore a different destination. 

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Most opt for Asia, Europe or island destinations. Coronavirus has the airline industry and travellers in a panic. Photographer and journalist Laurel Chor posted an image on Twitter of an almost empty flight (there were just four people on board). 

“Ghost flights”, as the aviation sector calls it, shows that many travellers are opting out of travel since the dreaded coronavirus outbreak. According to the International Air Transport Association forecast last week, airlines around the world could lose up to $113 billion in revenue this year if COVID-19 continues to spread. 

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said that many airlines were cutting capacity and taking emergency measures to reduce costs. 

“Governments must take note. Airlines are doing their best to stay afloat as they perform the vital task of linking the world’s economies. As governments look to stimulus measures, the airline industry will need consideration for relief on taxes, charges and slot allocation. These are extraordinary times.”

Airlines are offering discounts on flights to entice more travellers to book flights. With the low demand for travel to China, Spring Airlines offered a $4.10 (R61.27) as a special offer for its frequent flyer club members. Shenzhen Airlines offered their passengers a one-way ticket to Chongqing from Shenzhen for just $14 (R214), and Chengdu Airlines offered one-way flights from Shenzhen to Chengdu for less than a dollar (R13.92).

And, many flights globally has done the same. The New York Times reported that it has been almost 20 years since the aviation industry faced such an existential threat.

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It said that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, global air travel plummeted, and experts believe that the coronavirus could have a similarly disastrous impact.

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