All news

Carriers cancelling flights to China amid growing concern about coronavirus

Here belong Russia's flagship carrier Aeroflot, S7, Ural Airlines, Azur Air, Nordwind and iFly, British Airways, Finnair and China’s Nine Air

MOSCOW, January 29. /TASS/. The number of international carriers suspending flights to different regions of China is rapidly growing. Besides, some carriers had to cancel flights via transit routes since Chinese tourists are canceling flights abroad.

Many companies, including Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot and S7 suggest that passengers return flight tickets to China with the date of departure before the second decade of February. Earlier, some airlines started canceling flights on a massive scale to Chinese Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Meanwhile, from January 23, the Chinese authorities themselves suspended the activity of the airport and railway terminals of the city.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Ural Airlines announced that it was suspending direct flights to certain European countries due to the spread of the virus. This measure will include destinations with traditionally big numbers of organized tourists from China — Yekaterinburg-Munich, Yekaterinburg-Paris and Yekaterinburg-Rome.

The Urals Association of Tourism notes that the suspension of flights to Rome, Munich and Paris won’t tell on the flow of tourists from the Urals since those flights were mainly servicing passengers from China, and the quota for a free sale of tickets was meager.

Earlier, the carrier suspended flights from Yekaterinburg and Tyumen to Chinese Hainan Island. Also, flights between Xian and Ordos and the Urals city of Yekaterinburg will be suspended from February 7. Earlier this week, Russia’s Azur Air, Nordwind and iFly suspended charter flights to China.

Some countries, including Georgia and Kazakhstan, have decided to fully stop flights to China. Regular direct flights connect Georgia’s Tbilisi and Urumqi three times a week. Kazakhstan suspends the issuing of visas to Chinese nationals and regular flights to China starting from February 3.

British Airways also reported on Wednesday that it is suspending flights to China. Finnair has canceled several flights to the People’s Republic of China. China’s carrier Nine Air has canceled one and is considering cancelling one more flight between Russian Vladivostok and the city of Yiwu. Last week, another carrier, Nord Star, stopped carrying Russian tourists to Sanya (China).

The US administration is also considering a temporary ban on all flights from China to the US, CNBC reported on Tuesday referring to its sources. According to the El Periodico newspaper, Spanish Iberia is also looking into suspension of direct flights to Shanghai.

According to Chief Expert from the Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy at the National Research University Higher School of Economics Fyodor Borisov, many foreign airliners fly over Russia. If their flights are cancelled on a large scale, Aeroflot and the State Air Traffic Management Corporation, the main recipients of payments for flights in the Russian airspace, may be affected. "In fact, all air communications of Northern Europe with China, Japan and Korea go across Russia. Also, many flights to Southeast Asia are made across Russia," he told TASS. "So far, the decline in the amount of transportation is not catastrophic, flights are not cancelled on a large scale. However, if the situation persists, serious losses may be involved," he said.

On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about an outbreak of an unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, a large trade and industrial center in central China inhabited by 11 million people. On January 7, 2020, Chinese experts identified the infecting agent as coronavirus 2019-nCoV. As of Wednesday, January 29, over 130 people have died from the new coronavirus, and the number of people infected with the 2019-nCoV strain surpassed 6,000.

The new strain of coronavirus has already been identified in 15 countries. The World Health Organization recognized the pneumonia outbreak in China as a national emergency but stopped short of declaring it an international one. WHO specialists were dispatched to China.