Hong Kong Airlines will stop offering passengers in-flight meals on all of its flights starting February 19 in an effort to lower the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus, said the airline.

The airline said business class passengers will only get a bottle of water, while economy class passengers will be offered a “cuplet” of water only.

According to the airline, this is part of its temporary adjustments to its onboard services in order to “reduce the risk of our crew and customers from being potentially exposed to coronavirus”.

The airline added that duvets, blankets and pillows will not be offered, and a choice of magazines will not be provided as well, except for newspapers and reading material inside the seat pocket.

The airline said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and make adjustments to its in-flight services accordingly.

Starting today, Hong Kong Airlines has also temporarily closed its Club Autus lounge at the Midfield Concourse in Hong Kong International Airport “until further notice”.

During this period, the Club Bauhinia lounge located near Gate 23 in Terminal 1 will remain open for Hong Kong Airlines’ passengers as well as customers of its partner airlines. Only individually wrapped food items will be offered in the lounge, while the noodle bar will continue to offer made-to-order dishes.

Following the suspension of most of its in-flight services, Hong Kong Airlines has reportedly sacked 170 employees, most of whom are flight attendants, according to local Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.

The newspaper added that it had been told the move is a “desperate attempt to cut costs by an airline that was on the brink of collapse at the beginning of the year”.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong Airlines was already experiencing a financial crisis since last year. In late 2019, the airline announced the suspension of more routes including all flights to North America, and it stopped offering in-flight entertainment services since last December “until further notice”.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific also closed three lounges at Hong Kong International Airport and announced further flight capacity cuts throughout its network for the months of February and March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, Cathay Pacific and Korean Air also modified their inflight services on flights to China in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Airlines take away hot towels, pillows, blankets and more to contain spread of coronavirus